Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 2).djvu/125

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111
SOLAR GODS.

are represented as the parents of many of the gods. The other elemental deities are but obscurely known.

3. Among solar deities are at once recognised Ra and others, but there was a strong tendency to identify each of the gods with the sun, especially to identify Osiris with the sun in his nightly absence.[1] Each god, again, was apt to be blended with one or more of the sacred animals. "Ra, in his transformations, assumed the form of the lion, cat, and hawk."[2] "The great cat in the alley of persea trees at Heliopolis, which is Ra, crushed the serpent."[3] In different nomes and towns, it either happened that the same gods had different names, or that analogies were recognised between different local gods; in which case the names were often combined, as in Ammon-Ra, Sabek-Ra, Sokar- Osiris, and so forth.

Athwart all these classes and compounds of gods, and athwart the theological attempt at constructing a monotheism out of contradictory materials, came that ancient idea of dualism which exists in the myths of the most backward peoples. As Pund-jel in Australia had his enemy, the crow, as in America Yehl had his Khanukh, as Ioskeha had his Tawiscara, so the gods of Egypt, and specially Osiris, have their Set or Typhon, the spirit who constantly resists and destroys.

With these premises we approach the great Osirian myth.

  1. "The gods of the dead and the elemental gods were almost all identified with the sun, for the purpose of blending them in a theistic unity" (Maspero, Rev. de l'Hist. des Rel., i. 126).
  2. Birch, in Wilkinson, iii. 59.
  3. Le Page Renouf, op. cit., p. 114.