Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 1, by G.R.S. Mead, [1906]

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V. 1. And the priests handle so hardly [*1] the nature of superfluities, that they not only deprecate the many kinds of pulse, and of meats the sheep-flesh [*2] kinds and swine-flesh kinds, as making much superfluity, but also at their times of purification they remove the salts from the grains, [*3] having other further reasons as well as the fact that it makes the more thirsty and more hungry sharpen their desire the more.

2. For to argue that salts are not pure owing to the multitude of small lives [*4] that are caught [*5] and die in them when they solidify themselves, as Aristagoras said, [*6] is naive.

3. They are, moreover, said to water the Apis also from a special well, and by all means to keep him from the Nile,--not that they think His [*7] water stained with blood because of the Crocodile, [*8] as some think (for nothing is so precious to Egyptians as the Nile),

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but that the water of Nile's superfluity [*1] on being drunk seems to make fat, nay, rather to make much too much of flesh.

4. And [so] they do not wish the Apis to be so nor yet themselves, but [wish] to wear their bodies on their souls compact and light, and neither to com-press nor op-press them by the mortal part prevailing and its weighing down of the divine.


^267:1 Vulg., "endure with such difficulty" or "feel such disgust at."

^267:2 Referring usually to small animals of the sheep and goat kind, and more generally to all sacrificial animals.

^267:3 Or, perhaps, more generally, "the salt from their food." It more probably refers to mineral and not to vegetable salts.

^267:4 That is animalculae.

^267:5 aliskomena--probably a word-play on alas (salts).

^267:6 Muller, ii. 99. Aristagoras was a Greek writer on Egypt, who flourished about the last quarter of the 4th century B.C.

^267:7 Namely the Nile, as Osiris, or the Great Deep.

^267:8 Mystically the "Leviathan" (e.g. of the "Ophites") who lived in the Great Deep. Cf. also Ps. civ. 26, where, speaking of the Great Sea (25), it is written: "There go the ships [the barides, boats, or vehicles of souls], and there is that Leviathan [LXX. Dragon] whom thou hast fashioned to take his pastime [LXX. sport or mock] therein."

^268:1 to Neiluion ydur--ta Neiluia was the Feast of the Overflowing of the Nile.


VI. 1. And as for wine, the servants of the God in Sun-city [*2] do not at all bring it into the sacred place, as 'tis not right [for them] to drink by day while He, their Lord and King, looks on.

2. The rest [of them [*3]] use it indeed, but sparingly.

They have, however, many times of abstinence at which they drink no wine, but spend them in the search for wisdom, learning and teaching the [truth] about the Gods.

3. The kings used to drink it, though in certain measure according to the sacred writings, as Hecataeus has narrated, [*4] for they were priests [as well].

4. They began to drink it, however, only from the time of Psammetichus; [*5] but before that they used not to drink wine.

Nor did they make libation of it as a thing dear to the Gods, but as the blood of those who fought against the Gods, [*6]--from whom, when they fell and mingled with

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the earth, they think the vines came, and that because of this wine-drenching makes men to be out of their minds and struck aside, [*1] in that, forsooth, they are full-filled with the forefathers of its [*2] blood. [*3]

5. These things, at any rate Eudoxus says, in Book II. of his Circuit, [*4] are thus stated by the priests.


^268:2 Heliopolis--the God being the "Sun."

^268:3 Sc. the priests.

^268:4 Muller, ii. 389. H. flourished last quarter of 6th and first 5th century B.C.

^268:5 Reigned 671-617 B.C.

^268:6 Sc. the Titans or Daimones as opposed to the Gods.

^269:1 Or "de-ranged"--parapleigas. Paraplex is the first of the daimonian rulers in The Books of the Saviour (Pistis Sophia, 367).

^269:2 Sc. the vine's.

^269:3 Or "with the blood of its forefathers."

^269:4 Or Orbit. Eudoxus flourished about the middle of the 4th century B.C.; he was initiated into the Egyptian mysteries, and a great astronomer, obtaining his knowledge of the art from the priests of Isis.


VII. 1. As to sea-fish, all [Egyptians] abstain generally (not from all [fish] but) from some;--as, for example, those of the Oxyrhynchus nome from those caught with a hook, for as they venerate the sharp-snouted fish, [*5] they fear that the hook [*6] is not pure when "sharp-snout" is caught by it; [*7] while those of the Syene nome [abstain from] the "devourer," [*8] for that it seems that it appears together with the rising of the Nile, and that it shows their [*9] growth to those in joy, seen as a self-sent messenger.

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2. Their priests, upon the other hand, abstain from all; and [even] on the ninth of the first month, [*1] when every one of the rest of the Egyptians eats a broiled fish before his front door, [*2] the priests do not taste it, but burn their fishes to ashes before the doors [of the Temple]. [*3]

3. And they have two reasons [for this], of which I will later on take up the sacred and extraordinary [one], according with the facts religiously deduced concerning Osiris and Typhon. The evident, the one that's close at hand, in showing forth the fish as a not necessary and a not unsuperfluous cooked food, bears witness unto Homer, who makes neither the Phaeacians of luxurious lives, nor yet the Ithakesian Island men, use fish, nor yet Odysseus's Companions [*4] in so great a Voyage and on the Sea before they came to the last Strait. [*5]

4. And generally [the priests] think that the sea's from fire and is beyond the boundaries--nor part nor element [of earth], but of another kind, a superfluity cor-rupted and cor-rupting.


^269:5 ton oxurygxon--perhaps the pike.

^269:6 agkistron--dim. of agkos, meaning a "bend" of any kind. Perhaps it may be intended as a play on the ankh tie or "noose of life," the well-known Egyptian symbol, generally called the crux ansata.

^269:7 If we read aytui for aytui it would suggest a mystic meaning, namely, "falls into his own snare."

^269:8 fagrou--Vulg., sea-bream; but Hesychius spells it faguros, connecting it with fagein, to devour.

^269:9 Or "his" (the Nile's); but the "self-sent messenger" (aytaggelos) seems to demand "their," and so suggests a mystical sense.

^270:1 Copt. Thoth--corr. roughly with September.

^270:2 pro teis ayleioy thuras--that is, the outside door into the ayle', or court of the house. Cf. the title of the Trismegistic treatise given by Zosimus--"The Inner Door." There may, perhaps, be some mystical connection.

^270:3 Cf. Luke xxiv. 42: "And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish." This was after His "resurrection." Also cf. Talmud Bab., "Sanhedrin," 103a: "That thou shalt not have a son or disciple who burns his food publicly, like Jeschu ha-Notzri" (D. J. L., 189).

^270:4 Compare the Companions of Horus in the Solar Boat.

^270:5 I fancy there must be some under-meaning here, and so I have put the key-words in capitals.

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VIII. 1. For nothing reasonless, or [purely] fabulous, or from [mere] superstition, as some suppose, has been incorporated into the foundation of the sacred operations, but some things have moral and needful causes, while others are not without a share in the embellishment of science and physics,--as, for instance, in the case of the onion.

2. [The story] that Diktys, [*1] the nursling of Isis, [*2] fell into the river and was drowned, in trying to catch the onions with his hands, [*3] [is] utterly incredible.

3. The priests, however, keep themselves pure of the onion, and treat it hardly, being [ever] on the watch against it, because it is the only thing whose nature is to be well nourished and to flourish when the moon's a-wane.

It's food [*4] for neither fast nor feast,--neither for the former in that it makes those feeding [*5] on it thirst, while for the latter it makes them weep.

4. And in like manner also they consider the sow an unholy animal, because it seems to be covered especially when the moon is on the wane, while the bodies of those who drink its milk burst forth [*6] into leprosy [*7] and scabrous roughnesses.

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5. And the tale (logos) they tell after once only [*1] sacrificing and eating pig at the full-moon--[namely] that Typhon when pursuing pig towards full-moon found the wooden coffin in which the body of Osiris lay dead, and scattered it in pieces [*2]--they do not all receive, thinking it is a trifling mis-hearing [of the true tale] like many more. [*3]

6. But they say their ancients so protected themselves against softness [of living] and extravagance and agreeable sensations, that they said a slab was set up in the holy place at Thebes with deprecations in-lettered on it against Meinis [*4] the King, who first changed the Egyptians from the way of life without riches and without needs and plain.

7. Moreover, Technactis, father of Bocchoris, [*5] is said, when marching on the Arabs, [*6] when his baggage was delayed, [*7] to have used with joy the food nearest at hand, and afterwards to have fallen into deep sleep on a bed of straw, [*8] and so embraced frugality; and in

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consequence of this [he is said] to have execrated the Meinian, and, with the approval of the priests, to have graven his execration on stone.


^271:1 Diktys = the Netter. In other myth-cycles Diktys was son of Poseidon, and is often called simply the Fisher.

^271:2 Cf. xvi., xvii.

^271:3 epidrassomenon. The Fisher-soul, therefore, presumably fell out of the celestial boat or baris of Isis, and the myth may not be quite so apithanon as Plutarch would have us think. Cf. xvii. 3. Ordinary onions do not grow in rivers.

^271:4 Or "fit"--prosforon.

^271:5 tous prosferomenoys--a word-play on "food."

^271:6 exanthei--lit., "flower."

^271:7 lepran--that which makes the skin scaly and rough (lepros, as opposed to leios, smooth); there being also, I believe, a mystical under-meaning in it all.

^272:1 Apparently once a year.

^272:2 Cf. xviii. 1.

^272:3 This makes us doubt whether there may not be a number of similar "mis-hearings" in the myth as handed on by Plutarch.

^272:4 Probably this should be Mneuis (Mnevis), the sacred black bull, venerated as the symbol of the ka of Ra, and so it may contain some mystical allusion. Cf. xxxiii. 5.

^272:5 texnaktis is, perhaps, a word-play on tex ( sqrttek, tiktu), "creative" or "generative," and aktis, "ray"; while bokxoris may also be a play--such as, if one is allowed to speculate wildly, bous, "kine," and xoros, "dance," reflecting the celestial boykolos or Cowherd.

^272:6 It is to be noticed that there was an Arab nome in Egypt, and that Egypt was mapped out into a mystic body; and further, that the different surrounding nations were regarded as representative each of certain powers.

^272:7 Or it may mean "when his filth delayed him," and so contain a mystical implication.

^272:8 epi stibados. It may also mean "on the way."


IX. 1. The kings were appointed from the priests or from the warriors,--the one caste possessing worth and honour through manliness, and the other through wisdom.

2. And he who was appointed from the warriors immediately became [one] of the priests and shared in their philosophy,--which for the most part was hidden in myths and words (logoi), containing dim reflections and transparencies of truth, as, doubtless, they themselves make indirectly plain by fitly setting sphinxes up before the temples, as though their reasoning about the Gods possessed a wisdom wrapped in riddle. [*1]

3. Indeed, the seat [*2] of Athena (that is Isis, as they think) at Sais used to have the following inscription on it:

"I am all that has been and is and shall be, and no mortal has ever re-vealed [*3] my robe." [*4]

4. Moreover, while the majority think that the proper name of Zeus with the Egyptians is Amoun (which we by a slight change call Ammon), Manetho, the Sebennyte, considers it His hidden [one], and that His [power of] hiding is made plain by the very articulation of the sound.

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5. Hecataeus [*1] of Abdera, however, says that the Egyptians use this word to one another also when they call one to them, for that its sound has got the power of "calling to." [*2]

6. Wherefore when they call to the First God--who they think is the same for every man--as unto the Unmanifest and Hidden, invoking Him to make Him manifest and plain to them, they say "Amoun!"

So great, then, was the care Egyptians took about the wisdom which concerned the mysteries of the Gods.


^273:1 Cf. M. L. ridellus, F. rideau, a curtain or veil.

^273:2 The technical term for the sitting statue of a god or goddess.

^273:3 apekalypsen--that is, no one within duality has expressed or shown that in which this aspect of feminine life veils itself.

^273:4 For this mystical logos of Net (Neith), the Great Mother, cf. Budge, op. cit., i. 459 f.

^274:1 H. flourished 550-475 B.C. A. was a town on the southern shore of Thrace.

^274:2 proskletike'n. H. thus seems to suggest that it (? Amen) was a "word of power," a word of magic for evoking the ka of a person, or summoning it to appear. It does not seem very probable that the Egyptians shouted it after one another in the street.


X. 1. And the most wise of the Greeks also are witnesses--Solon, Thales, Plato, Eudoxus, Pythagoras, and, as some say, Lycurgus as well--through coming to Egypt and associating with her priests.

2. And so they say that Eudoxus was hearer of Chonouphis [*3] of Memphis, and Solon of Sonchis of Sais, and Pythagoras of Oenuphis of Heliopolis.

3. And the last especially, as it appears, being contemplated and contemplating, [*4] brought back to the

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memory of his men their [*1] symbolic and mysterious [art], containing their dogmas in dark sayings.

4. For most of the Pythagoric messages leave out nothing of what are called the hieroglyphic letters; for instance: "Eat not on what bears two"; [*2] "Sit not down on measure"; [*3] "Plant not phoenix"; [*4] "Stir not fire with knife [*5] in house."

5. And, for myself at least, I think that his men's calling the monad Apollo, [*6] and the dyad Artemis, and the hebdomad Athena, and the first cube [*7] Poseidon, also resembles those whose statues preside over the sacred places, and whose dramas are acted [there], yea and [the names] painted [*8] [there as well].

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6. For they write the King and Lord, Osiris, [*1] with "eye" and "sceptre." [*2] But some interpret the name also as "many-eyed," since in the Egyptian tongue os means "many," and iri "eye."

7. And they write Heaven, as unageing through eternity, [*3] with "heart," [that is] spirit, [*4] [rising] from "altar" [*5] underneath.

8. And at Thebes there used to be set up hand-less statues of judges, while the [statue] of the chief judge had its eyes tight shut,--seeing that Justice neither gives nor takes gift, and is not worked on.

9. And for the warriors, "scarab" was their seal-emblem;--for the scarab is not female, but all [scarabs] are male, [*6] and they engender their seed into matter [or material] which they make into spheres, preparing a field not so much of nourishment [*7] as of genesis.


^274:3 That is, presumably, Knouph or Knef.

^274:4 thaymastheis kai thaymasas, passive and active of the verb of thauma, generally translated "wonder," but meaning radically "look at with awe"; hence contemplate religiously (the art of theuria), and hence the Platonic (? Pythagorean) saying: "The beginning of philosophy is wonder." Compare the variants of the new-found Jesus logos ("Let not him who seeks," etc.), which preserve both thambetheis and thaymasas.

^275:1 That is, to the men of Greece the art of the Egyptians.

^275:2 epi difron (= di-foron)--variously translated "off a chair," "in a chariot," hence "on a journey." "That which bears two" is that which either carries two or brings forth two; the logos is thus, perhaps, a warning against falling into duality of any kind, and hence an injunction to contemplate unity.

^275:3 The xoinix was a dry measure, the standard of a man's (slave's) daily allowance of corn. Hence, perhaps, in one sense the symbol may mean: "Be not content with your 'daily bread' only"; yet any meaning connected with "that which measures" would suit the interpretation, such as, "Best not on measure, but move in the unimmeasurable."

^275:4 foinix means a "Phoenician" (as opposed to an Egyptian), a "date palm" (as opposed to a "pine"), and a "phoenix"; in colour this was "purple red," "purple," or "crimson." The phoenix proper rose again from its ashes; its colour was golden. fytuein means "plant," but also "engender," "beget."

^275:5 maxaira was, in Homeric times, the technical term for the sacred sacrificial knife--the knife that kills and divides the victim's body, while the fire transmutes and consumes it. There may, perhaps, be some connection between the symbol and the gnomic couplet of Hesiod quoted above (iv. 3); it is, however, generally said to mean, "Do not provoke an angry man," but this leaves out of consideration the concluding words "in house."

^275:6 Cf. lxxv. 14.

^275:7 Presumably the ogdoad or eight.

^275:8 Or "written" or "engraved."

^276:1 Eg. Asar.

^276:2 Generally a "throne" in the hieroglyphs. But for the numerous variants, see Budge, Gods of the Egyptians, ii. 113. Cf. li. 1 below.

^276:3 aidioteta--lit., form-(or idea-) less-ness; transcending all forms.

^276:4 thymon, one of the most primitive terms of Greek psychology--spirit or soul, or more generally life-principle.

^276:5 esxara, an altar for burnt offerings; here probably symbolising Earth as the syzygy of Heaven.

^276:6 It is to be remembered that the "mark" of the warriors was their manliness (ix. 1).

^276:7 Matter (yle) being the Nurse, "according to Plato." The legend was that the scarab beetle deposited its seed into dung which it first made into balls (lxxiv. 5).


XI. 1. When, therefore, thou hearest the myth-sayings of the Egyptians concerning the Gods--wanderings and

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dismemberings, and many such passions [*1]--thou shouldst remember what has been said above, and think none of these things spoken as they [really] are in state and action.

2. For they do not call Hermes "Dog" as a proper name, but they associate the watching and waking from sleep of the animal, [*2] who by knowing and not knowing determines friend from foe (as Plato says [*3]), with the most Logos-like of the Gods.

3. Nor do they think that the sun rises as a new-born babe from a lotus, but so they write "sun-rise," riddling the re-kindling of the sun from moist [elements]. [*4]

4. Moreover, they called the most crude and awesome King of the Persians (Ochus) [*5]--who killed many and finally cut the throat of Apis and made a hearty meal off him with his friends--"Knife," [*6] and they call him so unto this day in the Catalogue [*7] of their kings,--not, of course, signifying his essence by its proper name, [*8] but likening the hardness of his mood [*9] to an instrument of slaughter.

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5. So too shalt thou, if thou hearest and receivest the [mysteries] about the Gods from those who interpret the myth purely and according to the love of wisdom, and if thou doest ever and keepest carefully the customs observed by the priests, and if thou thinkest that thou wilt offer neither sacrifice nor act more pleasing to the Gods than the holding a true view concerning them,--thou shalt escape an ill no less than being-without-the-gods, [*1] [that is to say] the fearing-of-the-daimones. [*2]

XII. 1. The myth which is told is--in its very shortest possible [elements], after the purely useless and superfluous have been removed--as follows:


^277:1 pathe'mata--the technical mystery-term for such experiences, or sensible knowing.

^277:2 Or "of the Animal"--the Living One or Animal Itself or World Soul, if Dog is taken to mean the genus or Great Dog.

^277:3 Rep., ii. 375 F.

^277:4 That is, the ideogram of a new-born child with its finger on its lips seated on the bosom of the lotus signified "sun-rise," and "sun-rise" within as well as without. The "re-kindling" or "lighting up again" was presumably also a symbol of the "new birth from above."

^277:5 Artaxerxes III.; the priests, however, presumably used this incident to illustrate some more general truth. A similar story is also related of Cambyses (xliv. 8); they also called Ochus "Ass" (xxxi. 4).

^277:6 The sacrificial knife again, as in x. 2.

^277:7 Cf. xxxviii. 6.

^277:8 Perhaps even meaning by "his name of power."

^277:9 Or "of the turn," where it might refer to the turn of Egypt's fate-wheel.

^278:1 Or "atheism."

^278:2 Generally rendered "superstition."


2. They say that when Rhea [*3] secretly united with Kronos, Helios on sensing [*4] it imprecated her not to bring forth in month or year. [*5]

3. That Hermes being in love with the Goddess, came to conjunction [with her]; then playing draughts [*6] against Selene, [*7] and winning [*8] the seventieth of each

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of the lights, he con-duced from all [*1] five days and in-duced them into the three hundred and sixty [days]--which Egyptians call the "now in-duced," [*2] and keep as birthdays of the Gods. [*3]

4. [And they say] that on the first Osiris was born, and that a voice fell out [*4] together with him on his being brought forth--to wit: "The Lord of all forth comes to light."

5. But some say that a certain Pamyle, [*5] being moistened [*6] from the holy [place] of Zeus, heard a voice directing her to proclaim with outcry that "Great King Good-doing Osiris is born"; and that because of this she nursed Osiris, Kronos entrusting him to her, and they keep with mystic rites the Pamylia in his honour, similar to the Phallephoria. [*7]

6. And on the second [they say] Aroueris [was born]--whom they call Apollo, and some call Elder Horus. [*8]

On the third that Typhon, neither in season nor in place, but breaking through with a blow, leapt forth through her side. [*9]

On the fourth that Isis was born in all moist [conditions].

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On the fifth Nephthys, whom they name End and Aphrodite, while some [call] her also Victory.

7. And [they say] that Osiris and Aroueris were from Helios, Isis from Hermes, and Typhon and Nephthys from Kronos, and therefore the kings considering the third [*1] of the "induced" [days] nefast, used neither to consult nor serve themselves till night. [*2]

8. And [they say] that Nephthys was married to Typhon; [*3] but Isis and Osiris being in love with each other, united even before they were born, down in the Womb beneath the Darkness. [*4]

9. Some, moreover, say that Aroueris thus came to birth, and that he is called Elder Horus by Egyptians, but Apollo by Greeks.

XIII. 1. And [they say] that when Osiris was king, he straightway set free the Egyptians from a life from which they could find no way out and like unto that of wild beasts, [*5] both setting fruits before them, and laying down laws, and teaching them to honour the Gods.

2. And that subsequently he went over the whole earth, clearing it, [*6] not in the least requiring arms, but drawing the multitude to himself by charming them with persuasion and reason (logos), [*7] with song and every art the Muses give; [*8] and that for this

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cause he seems to the Greeks to be the same as Dionysus. [*1]

3. And [they say] that while he was away, Typhon attempted no revolution, owing to Isis keeping very careful guard, and having the power [*2] in her hands, holding it fast; but that when he [Osiris] came back, he made with art a wile for him, con-juring seventy-two men, and having as co-worker a queen coming out of Aethiopia, whom they call Aso. [*3]

4. But that after measuring out for himself in secret the body of Osiris, [*4] and having devised, according to the size, [*5] a beautiful and extraordinarily ornamented chest, [*6] brought it into the banqueting hall. [*7]

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5. And that when they were delighted at the sight and wondered, Typhon, in sport, promised to give the chest to him who could make himself exactly equal to it by laying himself down in it. [*1]

6. And that when all were trying, one after another, since no one fitted, Osiris stepped in and laid himself down.

7. And they who were present running up, dashed on the lid, and, after some [of them] had closed it down with fastenings, and others had poured hot lead over it, they carried it out to the River, [*2] and let it go into the Sea by way of the Tanitic [*3] mouth, which [they say] Egyptians call even to this day by a hateful and abominable name.

8. These things they say were done on the seventeenth of the month Athur, [*4] in which [month] the Sun passes through the Scorpion; it being the eight-and-twentieth year of Osiris' reign.

9. Some, however, say that he had lived and not reigned so long. [*5]

XIV. 1. And as the Pans and Satyrs [*6] that inhabit round Chemmis [*7] were the first to sense the

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passion [*1] [of Osiris], and give tongue concerning what was being done, [they say] that on this account sudden disturbances and emotions of crowds are even unto this day called "panics."

2. But when Isis [*2] sensed it, she cut off one of her curls, and put on a mourning dress, whence the city to this day bears the name Kopto. [*3]

But others think the name signifies privation, [*4] for they say that koptein is to de-prive.

3. And [they say] that she, wandering about in every direction, and finding no way out, never approached any one without accosting him; nay, she asked even little children whom she happened to meet, about the chest.

4. And they happened to have seen, and showed the mouth [*5] through which the friends of Typhon let the vessel [*6] go into the Sea.

5. Because of this [they say] Egyptians believe that little children have prophetic power, and they especially divine from the sounds of their voices, when playing in the holy places and shouting about anything.

6. [*7] And [they say] that when [Isis] was aware that

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[paragraph continues] Osiris in ignorance had fallen in love and united himself with her sister [*1] as with herself, and seeing as proof the honey-clover [*2] wreath which he had left behind with Nephthys, she sought for the babe--(for she [N.] exposed it immediately she bore it, through fear of Typhon [*3]).

7. And after it was found with toil and trouble--dogs [*4] guiding Isis to it it--was reared and became her guard and follower, being called Anubis, and is said to guard the Gods, as their dogs men.

XV. 1. It was from him she got intelligence about the chest:--that after it had been wave-tossed out by the Sea to the Byblos [*5] country, the land-wash had gently brought it to rest in a certain heather-bush." [*6]

2. And the heather-bush, in a short time running up into a most beautiful and very large young tree, enfolded, and grew round it, [*7] and hid it entirely within itself.

3. And the King, [*8] marvelling at the greatness of the

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tree, after cutting off the branches, and rounding off the trunk that surrounded the coffin without its being seen, [*1] set it up as the prop of his roof.

4. And they say that on her hearing of these things by the daimonian spirit of a voice, [*2] Isis came to Byblos, and, sitting down at a fountain-head, downcast and weeping, held converse with no one else, but she embraced and showed affection to the maids of the Queen, curling [*3] their hair and exhaling from herself on their skin a marvellous fragrance.

5. And when the Queen saw her maids, longing for the ambrosia-smelling hair and skin of the stranger came upon her.

And so when she had been sent for and had become an inmate [of the palace, the Queen] made her nurse of her little one.

6. And the name of the King, they say, was Malkander, [*4] while her name according to some was Astarte, according to others Saosis, and according to others Nemanous, [*5]--or whatever is the name for which the Greek equivalent would be Athenais. [*6]

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XVI. 1. And [they say] that instead of giving it [*1] the breast, Isis reared the little one by putting her finger [*2] into its mouth, and that at night she burnt round [*3] the mortal [elements] of its body, and, turning herself into a swallow, flew round the pillar and twittered a dirge; until the Queen, through spying [on her] and crying out [*4] when she saw the babe being burnt round, deprived it of its immortality. [*5]

2. That when the Goddess revealed herself, she claimed for herself the pillar of the roof; and, taking it down with the greatest care, she cut away the heather-tree from round it, then wrapping this [*6] up in fine linen, and pouring the juices of sweet herbs over it, [*7] she placed it in the hands of the royal couple; and even unto this day the people of Byblos venerate the wood [*8] lying in the holy place of Isis.

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3. As for the coffin, she flung herself round it, and kept moaning so long, that the younger of the little ones of the king died away; [*1] and, taking the elder with herself, and placing the coffin on a boat, she sailed away.

4. And when the River Phaedrus [*2] raised too rough a wind [*3] just after dawn, [*4] waxing wrath, she dried up his stream.

XVII. 1. And [they say] that when first she found solitude and was by herself, she opened the chest, and laying her face on his face, she kissed [him] and shed tears.

2. And that when the little one came up in silence from behind and understood, on sensing it she turned herself about, and passionately gave him an awe-ful look. And the little one could not hold himself up against the awe of her, and died.

3. But some say [it was] not thus, but, as it has been said before, [*5] that he fell out [*6] into the river.

4. And he has honours owing to the Goddess, for the Maneros [*7] whom Egyptians hymn at their symposia is he.

5. While others relate that the boy was called Palaestinos [*8] or Pelousios, and that the city [*9] was named after him when it was founded by the Goddess; and that the Maneros who is hymned was the first to discover the art of the Muses. [*10]

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6. But some say that it is the name of no one, but a manner of speech for men drinking and feasting,--with the meaning "May such and such things be present in becoming measure!" For the Egyptians on every such occasion shout out this, it being indicated to them by "Maneros."

7. Just as, doubtless, also their being shown the image of a dead man carried round in a small wooden coffin, is not a reminder of the Osirian passion, as some suppose; but it is in order to exhort them while filled with wine to make use of things present, in that all will very presently be such [as it], that they bring in an unpleasing after-revel.

XVIII. 1. And [they say] that when Isis had gone a journey to her son Horus, who was being reared at Boutos, [*1] and had put away [*2] the chest, [*3] Typhon, taking his dogs [*4] out by night towards the moon, came upon it; and recognising the body, tore it into fourteen pieces, and scattered them abroad.

2. And Isis [they say] on learning this, searched for them in a papyrus skiff (baris) sailing away through the marshes; [*5] whence those who sail in papyrus hulls are not injured by the crocodiles, either because they [*6] fear or rather revere the Goddess. [*7]

[p. 289]

3. And it is because of this [they say] that many tombs of Osiris are spoken of in Egypt [*1]--through her performing burial rites on meeting with each piece.

4. Some, however, say no; but that making herself images [of them] she distributed these to each city, [*2] as though she were giving it the [whole] body, in order that it might have honours from the multitude, and that even if Typhon should get the better of Horus, he might renounce his search for the true tomb when many were spoken of and pointed out.

5. Now, the only one of the parts of Osiris which Isis did not find was that which causes awe; for that it was cast straightway into the River, and the scaly-coat, [*3] and the devourer, [*4] and the sharp-snout [*5] ate it up--which [they say] among fishes are considered specially expiate; [*6] and that Isis, making herself a counterfeit instead of it, consecrated the phallus; in honour of which the Egyptians keep festival even to this day. [*7]

XIX. 1. Thereafter Osiris, coming to Horus out of

[p. 290]

the Invisible, [*1] worked through him and trained him for the fight.

2. He then put this test question to him: "What does he consider fairest?" And when he said: "Helping father and mother in ill plight,"--he asked a second: "What animal does he think most useful for those who go out to fight?"

3. And when Horus said "Horse," he marvelled at him, and was quite puzzled why he did not say "Lion" rather than "Horse." [*2]

4. Accordingly Horus said: "'Lion' is a needful thing to one requiring help, but 'Horse' [can] scatter in pieces the foe in flight and consume him utterly." [*3]

Thus hearing, Osiris rejoiced that Horus was fitly prepared.

5. And it is said that as many were changing over to the side of Horus, Thueris, [*4] Typhon's concubine, came too; and that a certain serpent pursuing after her was cut in pieces by those round Horus. [*5] And to-day on this account they cast down a small rope and cut it in pieces for all to see. [*6]

6. The fight lasted for many days, and Horus won. Nevertheless, when Isis received Typhon in bonds, she did not make away with him. Far from it; she unbound him and let him go.

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7. Horus, however, did not bear this temperately; but, laying hands on his mother, he drew off the crown from her head. Whereupon Hermes [*1] crowned her with a head-dress of cow-horns.

8. And [they say] that also when Typhon got the chance of bringing a bastardy suit against Horus, and Hermes was counsel for the defence, Horus was judged legitimate by the Gods. [*2]

And that [afterwards] Typhon was fought under in two other fights.

9. And that Isis brought forth from her union with Osiris after his death [*3] Harpocrates [*4]--who missed the month and was weak in his limbs from below upwards. [*5]


^278:3 The Mother of the Gods--"Flowing," that is, motion pure and simple, unordered or chaotic.

^278:4 In the most primitive meaning of the word aisthomenon--from  sqrtais, lengthened form of ai (compare aiu).

^278:5 meni met' eniaytui. Both words are connected with roots meaning "one" in ancient dialects; men = m-eis (Aeol.) and enos = an-nus (Lat.). Cf. eis, m-ia, en; hence eni-aytos = "one-same." The Goddess, therefore, apart from the Sun, could only bring forth in a day.

^278:6 pettia,--pessos was an oval-shaped stone for playing a game like our draughts; it was also used for the board on which the game was played, divided by 5 straight lines each way, and therefore into 36 squares.

^278:7 Sc. the moon.

^278:8 Or "taking away."

^279:1 Sc. the lights.

^279:2 epagomenais--or "now intercalated."

^279:3 This is an exceedingly puzzling statement. The "lights" cannot be the "lights" of the moon, of which there were 30 phases. It more probably has some connectipn with 360, the 70th of which works out at 5*142857--a number not so very far removed from our own calculations. The "each" in the text may thus be an error.

^279:4 A voice from heaven, a Bath-kol, proceeding from the Womb of Rhea.

^279:5 pamile--presumably a play on pan (all) and yle (matter).

^279:6 ydreyomenen--presumably by the Great Moistener; it is, however, generally translated "drawing water."

^279:7 That is the "Phallus-Bearing."

^279:8 Eg. Heru-ur.

^279:9 pleura--meaning in man radically "rib"; also side of a square, and root of a square (or cubic) number. Typhon would be represented by the diagonal.

^280:1 That is, the birthday of Typhon.

^280:2 A strange sentence; but as the kings were considered Gods, they probably worshipped themselves, or at least their own ka, and consulted themselves as oracles.

^280:3 Presumably as being opposite, or as hating one another.

^280:4 Cf. liv. 4.

^280:5 Metaphors reminiscent of the symbolism of the so-called Book of the Dead.

^280:6 Sc. of wild beasts; but may also mean "softening it," when Osiris stands for Water, and again "making it mild," or "civilising it."

^280:7 He himself being the Logos.

^280:8 moysikeis--music, in the modern meaning of the term, was only one of the arts of the Muses, the nine daughters of Zeus.

^281:1 Dio-nysos--that is, "he of the Mount (nusa) of Zeus."

^281:2 That is "sovereignty."

^281:3 Probably the prototype of the Alchemical Azoth. Aethiopia was the land of the black folk south of Egypt, the land par excellence of the black magicians as opposed to the good ones of the Egyptians (this, of course, being the Egyptian point of view). The Osiris-myth was in Egyptian, presumably, as easily interpretable into the language of magic and con-juration as into other values. Compare the Demotic folk-tales of Khamuas, in Grifiith's Stories of the High Priests of Memphis, for how this view of it would read in Egyptian. Aethiopia would also mean the Dark Earth as opposed to the Light Heaven.

^281:4 The "body of Osiris" may mean the cosmos (great or little), as the "body of Adam," its copy in the Kabalah.

^281:5 Or, "according to the greatness"--using "greatness" in its Gnostic signification, as here meaning the great cosmos and also the cosmic body of man.

^281:6 In Pythagorean terms, "an odd-ly ordered rectangular encasement"--referring, perhaps, to a certain configuration of cosmic permanent atoms. But see the plate which Isaac Myer calls "A Medieval Idea of the Makrokosm, in the Heavenly Zodiacal Ark," but which intitles itself "Forma Exterior Arcae Noe ex Descriptione Mosis." This is a coffin, and within it lies the dead Christ. The plate is prefixed to p. 439 of Myer's Qabbalah (Philadelphia, 1888). It also presumably refers to the "germ" of the cosmic robe of the purified man, the "robe of glory." In mysticism the metaphors cannot be kept unmixed, for it is the apotheosis of syncretism.

^281:7 Lit., the "drinking together," referring perhaps to the conjunction of certain cosmic forces, and also microcosmically to souls in a state of joy or festivity or bliss, prior to incarnation.

^282:1 That is, prove the "permanent atoms" were his own--if we think in terms of reincarnation.

^282:2 Sc. the Sacred Nile, Great Jordan, etc., the Stream of Ocean, which, flowing downwards, is the birth of men, and upwards, the birth of Gods.

^282:3 tan-itikou--probably a word-play connected with  sqrttan, "to stretch," and so make tense or thin, or expand, and so the "widestretched mouth of the Great River." Cf. the Titans or Stretchers.

^282:4 Copt. Hathor--corr. roughly to November.

^282:5 Cf. xlii. 4.

^282:6 Two classes of elemental existences.

^282:7 That is Apu, the Panopolis of the Greeks; the name Chemmis, the modern Akhmim, is derived from an old Egyptian name. See Budge, op. cit., ii. 188.

^283:1 pathos--the technical term of what was enacted in the mystery-drama.

^283:2 As Mother Nature.

^283:3 Meaning "I cut"; and in mid. "I cut or beat the breast," as a sign of mourning.

^283:4 "The depriving things of their power" or "negation"; Osiris being the fertilising or generative or positive power.

^283:5 Sc. the way or passage. In little children the life force is not sexually polarised.

^283:6 aggeion--a vase or vessel of any kind, hence funerary urn or even coffin; but metaggizein means "to pour from one vessel into another," and metaggismos is the Pythagorean technical term for metempsychosis or palingenesis.

^283:7 This paragraph, which breaks the narrative, is introduced to give the myth of the birth of Anubis.

^284:1 Sc. Nephthys.

^284:2 Meli-lote--lotos in Greek stands for several plants; it might be translated as "honey-lotus." Cf. xxxviii. 5.

^284:3 Her legitimate spouse.

^284:4 A term used frequently among the Greeks (who presumably got the idea elsewhere) for the servants, agents, or watchers of the higher Gods; thus the Eagle is called the "winged dog" of Zeus Aesch., Pr., 1022). "Dog," as we have seen (xi. 1, n.) signifies a power of the World, Soul or Great Animal, also of individual souls.

^284:5 That is, "Papyrus." This Byblos was a "city in the Papyrus Swamps of the Delta." (So Budge, op. cit., ii. 190.)

^284:6 ereike--probably a play on the root-meaning of ereikein, "to quiver," is intended. The Egyptian erica was taller and more bushy than ours. Or it may be the tamarisk; elsewhere it is called a mulberry-tree.

^284:7 Sc. the "coffin"--perhaps here signifying what has lately been called the "permanent atom" in man.

^284:8 The ruler of the form-side of things.

^285:1 On the erroneously called "Gnostic" gems, the lopped trunk is a frequent symbol; the lopped "five-branched," presumably.

^285:2 Notice the three stages of awareness: (i.) the babbling of children; (ii.) the intelligence given by the dog; (iii.) the daimonian spirit of a voice (Heb. Bath-kol).

^285:3 Isis, when she first lost Osiris, cut off a curl (xiv. 2).

^285:4 Apparently, though curiously, a play on the Semitic MLK or Malek, "king," and the Greek andr, "man"--that is, "king of men."

^285:5 Or "Nemanos." The names seem to have been impartially maltreated by the copyists; thus we find such variants as Asparte, Sooses, Neimanoe.

^285:6 There was among the ancients an art of name-translation, as Plato tells us in the Story of Atlantis, in which the Atlantic names he says, were translated into Greek by Solon or by the priests of Sais. Here, I believe, there is also a word-play intended. Isis, as we have seen, was pre-eminently Nurse, titthe, a further intensification of the intensified ti-the; from  sqrttha, "suckle"; the common form of "nurse" was ti-the'-ne. On the contrary, athenais is a daughter or derivative of a-the'-ne, one who does not give suck; for Athena was born from the head and was the virgin goddess par excellence. Mythologically, Athenais was wife of Alalkomeneus, the eponymous hero of a city in Boeotia, where was a very ancient temple of Athena. In the Pindaric ode quoted in S. (1) of chapter, "Myth of Man in the Mysteries," Alalkomeneus is given as one of the equivalents for the "first man."

^286:1 The child's name was Diktys, according to viii. 2.

^286:2 The  sqrtdek in daktylos is said to be the same as that in deka, "ten," and "ten" is the number of "perfection."

^286:3 Or "away."

^286:4 Lit., "croaking" like a raven, to match the "twittering" of the swallow.

^286:5 This presumably hints that Isis, as the Divine Mother, endeavours to make all perfect and sound, while the earthly mother prevents this.

^286:6 Sc. the erica.

^286:7 Cf. John xix. 40: "So they took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in fine linen together with sweet herbs."

^286:8 to xulon--the term used repeatedly in the New Testament for the cross.

^287:1 Or "swooned," or lost consciousness.

^287:2 faidros--lit., Bright, Beaming, Shining--that is, the Sun-stream.

^287:3 Or "breath" (pneuma).

^287:4 That is "at sun-rise."

^287:5 Cf. viii. 2.

^287:6 Sc. of the boat of Isis.

^287:7 Man-erus. I fancy this is a play, in conjunction with the kata-man-than-onta, and apo-than-onta (the "understanding" and "dying away") above; the name would then mean either "love of understanding" or "understanding of love."

^287:8 palaistinos--perhaps a play on palaiste's, "a wrestler"; hence a "rival" or "suitor."

^287:9 Pelusium; the Pelusian was the eastern mouth of the Nile.

^287:10 See note on xii. 1.

^288:1 Generally supposed to stand for the city Buto, but may be some word-play. Can it be connected with Bootes, the Ploughman--the constellation Arcturus--the voyage being celestial; that is, a movement of the world-soul or change of state in the individual soul? Budge (p. 192) gives its Egyptian equivalent as Per-Uatchit, i.e. "House of the Eye."

^288:2 Lit., from her feet.

^288:3 Lit., vessel; may also mean "cell."

^288:4 Vulg., "hunting."

^288:5 ele--a probable play on the di-elein ("tear to pieces") above.

^288:6 Sc. the crocodiles.

^288:7 It is remarkable how that every now and then Plutarch inserts apparently the most naive superstitions without a word of explanation. They cannot be all simply irresponsible on dits. It is, perhaps, not without significance that the "chest" is first of all drifted to the Papyrus country, and that the baris of Isis should be made of papyrus. It seems almost as if it symbolised some "vehicle" that was safe from the "crocodile" of the deep. In other words, the skiffs are not paper boats and the crocodiles not alligators.

^289:1 "And Egypt they say is the body" to quote a refrain from Hippolytus concerning the "Gnostics."

^289:2 Presumably of the fourteen sacred ones.

^289:3 lepiduton.

^289:4 fagron.

^289:5 oxurygxon.

^289:6 Anthropologically, "taboo."

^289:7 What these "fourteen parts" of Osiris may be is beyond the sphere of dogmatism. I would suggest that there may be along one line some connection with those seeds of life which have lately been called "permanent atoms"; and along another line, that of the birth of the Christ-consciousness, there may be a series of powers derived from past incarnations.

^290:1 Hades.

^290:2 The "Horse" may symbolise purified passion, and "Lion" a certain receptive power of the mind.

^290:3 The white "Horse" was presumably opposed to the red "Ass" of Typhon, as the purified vehicle of the soul contrasted with the impure. "Lion" was one of the grades in the Mithriac Mysteries; it was a sun-animal.

^290:4 Eg. Ta-urt (Budge, op. cit., p. 193).

^290:5 That is, by the Companions of Horus (or Disciples of the Christ)--a frequent scene in the vignettes of the Book of the Dead.

^290:6 That is, in the public mystery processions.

^291:1 The symboliser as well as the interpreter of the Gods.

^291:2 Cf. liv. 3.

^291:3 Or it may mean "completion" (teleyte'n).

^291:4 In Eg. Heru-p-khart, i.e., "Horus the Younger."

^291:5 tois katuthen gyiois--but, presumably, not from above downwards.


XX. I. These are approximately the chief headings of their myth, after the most ill-omened have been removed,--such as, for instance, the one about the cutting up into pieces of Horus, and the beheading of Isis.

2. That, however, if people suppose and say these things about that Blessed and Incorruptible Nature according to which especially the Divine conceives itself, as though they were actually enacted and really took place, "thou shouldst spit out and cleanse mouth," according to Aeschylus, [*6] there is no need to tell thee; [*7] for of thyself thou showest displeasure at those who hold illegitimate and barbarous notions about the Gods.

[p. 292]

3. But that these things are not at all like lean tales and quite empty figments, such as poets and prose-writers weave and expand as though they were spiders spinning them out of themselves from a source that has no basis in fact, but that they contain certain informations and statements,--thou knowest of thyself.

4. And just as the Mathematici [*1] say that "Iris" [*2] is the sun's reflexion many-coloured by the return of its visual impression to the cloud, so the myth down here is a reflexion of a certain reason (logos) that bends its thinking back on other things; as both the sacred offerings suggest by the reflected element of mournfulness and sadness they contain, and also the dispositions of the temples which in one direction open out into side-walks and courts for moving about in, open to the sky and clear of objects, while in the other they have hidden and dark robing-rooms under ground, like places for putting coffins in and burying-spots.


^291:6 Ed. Nauck, p. 84.

^291:7 Sc. Klea.

^292:1 Presumably, again, the Pythagorean grade above the Hearers.

^292:2 Sc. the rainbow.


5. And not least of all does the belief of the Osirians--since the body [of Osiris] is said to be in many places--[suggest this].

6. For they say that both Diochite is called Polichne, [*3] because it alone has the true one; and [also] that it is at Abydos that the wealthy and powerful of the Egyptians are mostly buried,--their ambition being to have a common place of burial with the body of Osiris; and [again] that it is at Memphis that the Apis is

[p. 293]

reared as the image of the soul of Osiris, because it is there also that his body lies.

7. And as for the City, [*1] some interpret it as "Harbour of Good Things," but others give it the special meaning of "Tomb of Osiris"; it is, however, the little island one [*2] at Philae [they say] which is in other respects inaccessible and inapproachable by all, and that not even the birds light on it or fish come near it, but at a certain season the priests cross over [to it] and make offerings to the dead, and place wreaths on the monument which is overshadowed by a . . . [*3] tree, which is greater in size than any olive.

XXI. 1. Eudoxus, however, [says] that, though many tombs are spoken of in Egypt, the body lies at Busiris, for that this had been the native city of Osiris; nevertheless Taphosiris requires no further reason [to establish its claim], for the name explains itself--namely, "Burying of Osiris."

"But I rede of cutting of wood, of rending of linen, and pouring of pourings, because many of the mystery-[meanings] have been mixed up with them." [*4]

[p. 294]

2. But the priests say that not only of these Gods, but also of all the other gods also who are not ingenerable and indestructible, the bodies lie buried with them when they [*1] have done their work, and have service rendered them, while their souls shine in heaven as

[p. 295]

stars; and that [of the former] the [soul] of Isis is called Dog by the Greeks, but Sothis by the Egyptians, while the [soul] of Horus [is called] Orion, [*1] and Typhon's Bear. [*2]

3. And [they say] that for the burials of the animals to whom honour is paid, the rest [of the Egyptians] pay the [dues which are] mutually determined; but that those alone who inhabit the Thebaid give nothing, since they believe that no God is subject to death, and that he whom they themselves call Kneph is ingenerable and immortal.


^292:3 Either the reading is at fault, or some word-play is intended. Dio-chite is probably Zeus-something; but I cannot resolve it. While Polichne is a rare diminutive of polis, and would thus mean "Little City."

^293:1 ? Memphis; or, perhaps, as contrasted with the Little City above.

^293:2 Sc. city; nistitanen is a hopeless reading, and as the editors can make nothing out of it, I suggest nesitida or nesidanen (polin).

^293:3 methides--apparently an error; Bernardakis suggests minthes (Lat. mentha) "mint." Can the right reading be medikeis (poas)? The herba medica, was, however, the sainfoin or lucerne, which, though reminding us of the melilote of xiv., is hardly capable of overshadowing a tomb even in the most intricate symbolical sense.

^293:4 Evidently a verbal quotation from Eudoxus. The "cutting of wood" presumably refers to the trunk with lopped branches, which, as we have already mentioned, occurs so frequently on so-called "Gnostic" gems; the "rending of linen" (linoy) might also be made to refer to Linus, the Bard, and his being torn to pieces like Osiris; Linos also means the "Song of Linus," so called, it is supposed by some, because in earliest times the strings of the cithara were made of flax. For other names of singers used for lays or modes of song, compare Maneros and Paean; though, of course, the modern way is to regard the singer as the personification of the lay. Thus in Emil Naumann's History of Music (trans, by F. Praeger; London, 1882), p. 3, we read: "The Greek tribes of Peloponnesus and Hellas, as well as the Egyptians, Phoenicians, the Greeks inhabiting the isles of the Aegean Sea, and especially those of Cyprus, had a primitive 'Lament' which seems to have come originally from Phoenicia. It was a funeral chant on the death of the youthful Adonis. . . . The Egyptians changed its signification into a lament of Isis for Osiris. The Greeks called it Linos, and the Egyptians Maneros." The beginning of the "Maneros," or the Lament of Isis for her Beloved, is given as follows by Naumann (p. 40):"Return, oh, return!
God Panu, return!
Those that were enemies are no more here.
Oh lovely helper, return,
That thou may'st see me, thy sister,
Who loves thee.
And com'st thou not near me?
O beautiful youth, return, oh, return!
When I see thee not
My heart sorrows for thee,
My eyes ever seek thee,
I roam about for thee, to see thee in the form of the Nai,
To see thee, to see thee, thou beautiful lov'd one.
Let me the Radiant, see thee
God Panu, All-Glory, see thee again!
To thy beloved come, blessed Onnofris,
Come to thy sister, come to thy wife,
God Urtuhet, oh, come!
Come to thy consort!"Unfortunately, Naumann does not give any references by which we can control his statements.

^294:1 The bodies; presumably referring to the mummies of those men and women who were believed to have reached the god-stage while living.

^295:1 Cf. xxii. 3.

^295:2 Probably all name-plays: kuun (dog),  sqrtky (conceive)--see lxi. 6; H-or-os, Or-ion; ark-tos (bear),  sqrtark (suffice, endure, bear); Ursa Major is called the Wain.

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