Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 2).djvu/96

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
( 82 )

CHAPTER XV.

THE MYTHOLOGY OF EGYPT.

Antiquity of Egypt—Guesses at origin of the people—Chronological view of the religion—Permanence and changes—Local and syncretic worship—Elements of pure belief and of totemism—Authorities for facts—Monuments and Greek reports—Contending theories of modern authors—Study of the gods, their beasts, their alliances, and mutations—Evidence of ritual—A study of the Osiris myth and of the development of Osiris—Savage and theological elements in the myth—Moral aspect of the religion—Conclusion.

Even to the ancients Egypt was antiquity, and the Greeks sought in the dateless mysteries of the Egyptian religion for the fountain of all that was most mysterious in their own. Curiosity about the obscure beginnings of human creeds and the first knowledge of the gods was naturally aroused by that spectacle of the Pantheon of Egypt. Her highest gods were abstractions, swathed, like the Involuti of the Etrurians, in veils of mystic doctrine; yet in the most secret recess of her temples the pious beheld "a crocodile, a cat, or a serpent, a beast rolling on a purple couch."[1] In Egypt, the earlier ages and the later times beheld a land dominated by the thought of death, whose shadow falls on the monarch on his crowning day, whose whisper bids him send to far-off

  1. Clem. Alex., Pædagog., iii. 2 (93).