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Ammon, and took instead the name of Chuen-'eten, “gleam of the sun's disc.” His death was followed by a violent reaction. The old gods were reinstated in their rank and privileges; their names and images were restored ; and new temples were built. But all the shrines and palaces reared by the late king were thrown down ; even the sculptures that referred to him and to his god in rock-tombs and on the sides of hills were erased or filled up with stucco ; his name appears on no later monument, and was carefully omitted from all official lists.
This attempt of King Amenophis IV. is only an extreme example of a tendency which appears to have been at work on the religion of Egypt as far back as we can trace it. Therefore, to come back to our point, in attempting to discover the original character of any Egyptian god, no weight can be given to the identification of him with other gods, least of all with the sun-god Ra. Far from helping to follow up the trail, these identifications only cross and confuse it. The best evidence for the original character of the Egyptian gods is to be found in their ritual and myths, so far as these are known, and in the manner in which they are portrayed on the monuments. It is mainly on evidence drawn from these sources that I rest my interpretation of Osiris as a deity of the fruits of the earth.
The ground upon which some recent writers seem chiefly to rely for the identification of Osiris with the sun is that the story of his death fits better with the solar phenomena than with any other in nature. It may readily be admitted that the daily appearance and disappearance of the sun might very naturally be expressed by a myth of his death and resurrection ; and writers who regard Osiris as the sun are careful to indicate that it is the diurnal, and not the annual, course of the sun to which they understand the myth to apply. Thus Renouf, who identified Osiris with the sun, admitted that the Egyptian sun could not with any show of reason be described as dead in winter. But if his daily death was the theme of the legend, why was it celebrated by an annual ceremony ? This fact alone seems fatal to the
| Hibbert Lectures, 1879, p. 113. Compare Ed. Meyer, Geschichte des Alterthums, i. SS 55, 57.
interpretation of the myth as descriptive of sunset and sunrise. Again, though the sun may be said to die daily, in what sense can he be said to be torn in pieces ?
In the course of our inquiry, it has, I trust, been made clear that there is another natural phenomenon to which the conception of death and resurrection is as applicable as to sunset and sunrise, and which, as a matter of fact, has been so conceived and represented in folk-custom. This phenomenon is the annual growth and decay of vegetation. A strong reason for interpreting the death of Osiris as the decay of vegetation rather than as the sunset is to be found in the general, though not unanimous, voice of antiquity, which classed together the worship and myths of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Demeter, as religions of essentially the same type. The consensus of ancient opinion on this subject seems too great to be rejected as a mere fancy. So closely did the rites of Osiris resemble those of Adonis at Byblus that some of the people of Byblus themselves maintained that it was Osiris and not Adonis whose death was mourned by them. Such a view could certainly not have been held if the rituals of the two gods had not been so alike as to be almost indistinguishable. Again, Herodotus found the similarity between the rites of Osiris and Dionysus so great, that he thought it impossible the latter could have arisen independently; they must, he thought, have been recently borrowed, with slight alterations, by the Greeks from the Egyptians. Again, Plutarch, a very
1 I am pleased to observe that Pro 156; Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 13, 35 ; fessor C. P. Tiele, who formerly inter id., Quaest. Conii. iv. 5. 3; Diopreted Osiris as a sun.god (History of dorus, i. 13, 25, 96, iv. 1; Orphiia, Egyptian Religion, p. 43 99.), has Hymn 42 ; Eusebius, Praigar. Erang. now adopted a view of his nature which ii. 11. 31 ; Servius on Virgil, den. xi. approaches more nearly to the one 287 ; id., on Giorg. i. 166 ; Hippoly. advocated in this book. See his tus, Refut. omn. haircs. v. 9, p. 168 : Geschiedenis van den Godsdienst in de Socrates, Eccles. Hist. iii. 23, p. 204 ; Oudheid, i. 33 sq. (Amsterdam, 1893). Tzetzes, Schol. on Lyophron, 212 ; Professor Maspero has also abandoned Airmuara, xxii. 2, in Mythographi the theory that Osiris was the sun; he Gracci, ed. Westermann, p. 368 ; now supposes that the deity originally Nonnus, Dionys. iv. 269 s. ; Cornutus, personified the Nile. See his Histoire De natura dioruni, 28; Clemens ancienne(Paris, 1886), p. 35; and his Alexandr. l'rotript. ji. 19; Firmicus Histoire ancienne des peuples de l'Orient Maternus, Di crrore profan, rolig. 7. classique : les origines (Paris, 1895),
3 Lucian, Di dea Syria, 7. p. 130. 2 Herodotus, ii. 42, 49, 59, 144,
+ Herodotus, ii. 49.
keen student of comparative religion, insists upon the detailed resemblance of the rites of Osiris to those of Dionysus? We cannot reject the evidence of such intelligent and trustworthy witnesses on plain matters of fact which fell under their own cognisance. Their explanations of the worships it is indeed possible to reject, for the meaning of religious cults is often open to question ; but resemblances of ritual are matters of observation. Therefore, those who explain Osiris as the sun are driven to the alternative of either dismissing as mistaken the testimony of antiquity to the similarity of the rites of Osiris, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, and Demeter, or of interpreting all these rites as sun-worship. No modern scholar has fairly faced and accepted either side of this alternative. To accept the former would be to affirm that we know the rites of these deities better than the men who practised, or at least who witnessed them.
To accept the latter would involve a wrenching, clipping, mangling, and distorting of myth and ritual from which even Macrobius shrank. On the other hand, the view that the essence of all these rites was the mimic death and revival of vegetation, explains them separately and collectively in an easy and natural way, and harmonises with the general testimony borne by antiquity to their substantial similarity. The evidence for thus explaining Adonis, Attis, and Osiris has now been laid before the reader ; it remains to do the same for Dionysus and Demeter.
Before, however, we pass from Egyptian to Greek mythology it will be worth while to consider an ancient explanation of Osiris, which deserves more attention than it has received in modern times. We are told by Plutarch that among the philosophers who saw in the gods of Egypt personifications of natural objects and forces, there were some who interpreted Osiris as the moon and his enemy Typhon as the sun,“ because the moon, with her humid and generative light, is favourable to the propagation of animals and the growth of plants; while the sun with his fierce fire scorches and burns up all growing things, renders the greater part of
1 Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 35.
? Osiris, Attis, Adonis, and Dionysus were all resolved by him into the sun ;
but he spared Demeter (Ceres), whom, however, he interpreted as the moon. See the Saturnalia, bk. i.
the earth uninhabitable by reason of his blaze, and often overpowers the moon herself.” Whatever may be thought of the physical qualities here attributed to the moon, the arguments adduced by the ancients to prove the identity of Osiris with that luminary carry with them a weight which has at least not been lightened by the results of modern research. An examination of them and of other evidence pointing in the same direction will, perhaps, help to set the original character of the Egyptian deity in a clearer light.
1. Osiris was said to have lived or reigned twenty-eight years. This might fairly be taken as a mythical expression for a lunar month.?
2. His body was reported to have been rent into fourteen pieces. This might be interpreted of the waning moon, which appears to lose a portion of itself on each of the fourteen days that make up the second half of a lunar month. It is expressly said that his enemy Typhon found the body of Osiris at the full moon ; 4 thus the dismemberment of the god would begin with the waning of the moon. To primitive man it seems manifest that the waning moon is actually dwindling, and he naturally enough explains its diminution by supposing that the planet is being rent or broken in pieces or eaten away. The Klamath Indians of Oregon speak of the moon as “the one broken to pieces" with reference to its changing aspect; they never apply such a term to the sun, whose apparent change of bulk at different seasons of the year is far too insignificant to attract the attention of the savage, or at least to be described by him in such forcible language. The Dacotas believe that when the moon is full, a great many little mice begin to nibble at one side of it and do not cease till they have eaten it all up, after which a new moon is born and grows to maturity, only to share the fate of all its countless predecessors.
3. At the new moon of the month Phanemoth, which was the beginning of spring, the Egyptians celebrated what they called “the entry of Osiris into the moon.”. i Plutarch, Isis ct Osiris, 41. (Washington, 1890), p. lxxxix.
6 S. R. Riggs, Dakota Grammar, 3 Ibid. 18, 42.
• Ibid. 8, Texts, and Ethnography (Washington, A. S. Gatschet, The Klamath 1893), p. 165. Indians of South - IVestern Oregon i Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 43.
• Ibid. 13, 42.
4. At the ceremony called “the burial of Osiris ” the Egyptians made a crescent-shaped chest“ because the moon, when it approaches the sun, assumes the form of a crescent and vanishes." 1
5. The bull Apis, held to be an image of the soul of Osiris, was born of a cow which was believed to have been impregnated, not in the vulgar way by a bull, but by a divine influence emanating from the moon.
6. Once a year, at the full moon, pigs were sacrificed simultaneously to the moon and Osiris. The relation of pigs to the god will be considered later on.
7. In a hymn supposed to be addressed by Isis to Osiris, it is said that Thoth
Placeth thy soul in the bark Ma-at,
Thou who comest to us as a child each month,
Here then Osiris is identified with the moon in set terms, If in the same hymn he is said to “illuminate us like Ra" (the sun), this is obviously no reason for identifying him with the sun, but quite the contrary. For though the moon may reasonably be compared to the sun, neither the sun nor anything else can reasonably be compared to itself.
Now if Osiris was originally, as I suppose, a deity of vegetation, we can casily enough understand why in a later and more philosophic age he should come to be thus identified or confounded with the moon. For as soon as he begins to meditate upon the causes of things, the early philosopher is led by certain obvious, though fallacious, appearances to regard the moon as the ultimate cause of the growth of plants. In the first place he associates its apparent growth and decay with the growth and decay of sublunary things, 1 Plutarch, Isis et Osiris, 43.
et Osiris, 8. • Toit. 20, 29.
i Records of the Past, i. 121 sy. : 3 lbid. 43.
Brugsch, Religion und Mythologie der + Herodotus, ii. 47; Plutarch, Isis allin keyptir, p. 629 sq.