Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 2).djvu/127

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113
OSIRIS MYTH.

without any connected narrative. Fortunately the narrative, as related by the priests of his own time, is given by the author of De Iside ct Osiride, and is confirmed both by the Egyptian texts and by the mysterious hints of the pious Herodotus. Here we follow the myth as reported in the Greek tract, and illustrated by the monuments.

The reader must, for the moment, clear his mind of all the many theories of the meaning of the myth, and must forget the lofty, divine, and mystical functions attributed by Egyptian theologians and Egyptian sacred usage to Osiris. He must read the story simply as a story, and he will be struck with its amazing resemblances to the legends about their culture-heroes which are current among the lowest races of America and Africa.

Seb and Nut—earth and heaven—were husband and wife. In the De Iside version, the sun cursed Nut that she should have no child in month or year; but, thanks to the cleverness of a new divine co-respondent, five days were added to the calendar. This is clearly a later edition to the fable. On the first of those days Osiris was born, then Typhon or Set, "neither in due time, nor in the right place, but breaking through with a blow, he leaped out from his mother's side."[1] Isis and Nephthys were later-born sisters.


  1. responsible for our treatment of the myth. The Ptolemaic version of the temple of Edfou is published by M. Naville, Mythe d'Horus (Geneva, 1870).

  2. De Iside et Osiride, xii. It is a most curious coincidence that the same story is told of Indra in the Rig-Veda, iv. 18, 1. "This is the old and well-known path by which all the gods were born: thou mayest not, by other means, bring thy mother unto death." Indra