It was the duty of certain genii to open gates in Hades, or to keep the paths daily traversed by the sun. These genii were always at their posts, never free to leave them, and possessed no other faculty than that of punctually fulfilling their appointed offices. Their existence, generally unperceived, was suddenly revealed at the very moment when the specific acts of their lives were on the point of accomplishment. These being completed, the divinities fell back into their state of inertia, and were, so to speak, reabsorbed by their functions until the next occasion. Scarcely visible even by glimpses, they were not easily depicted; their real forms being often unknown, these were approximately conjectured from their occupations. Some appeared in human form; others as animals—bulls or lions, rams or monkeys, serpents, fish, ibises, hawks; others dwelt in inanimate things, such as trees,[*] sistrums, stakes stuck in the ground;[**] and lastly, many betrayed a mixed origin in their combinations of human and animal forms. These latter would be regarded by us as monsters; to the Egyptians, they were beings, rarer perhaps than the rest, but not the less real, and their like might be encountered in the neighbourhood of Egypt. How could men who believed themselves surrounded by sphinxes and griffins of flesh and blood doubt that there were bull-headed and hawk-headed divinities with human busts?
The existence of such paradoxical creatures was proved by much authentic testimony; more than one hunter had distinctly seen them as they ran along the furthest planes of the horizon, beyond the herds of gazelles of which he was in chase; and shepherds dreaded them for their flocks as truly as they dreaded the lions, or the great felidse of the desert.
From tombs of Beni-Hassan. To the right is sha, one of animal of sit, and exact image of the god with his stiff and arrow like- tail. Next is the safir, the griffin. Next to safir is the serpent headed saza.
The hawk-headed monster with flower-tipped tail was called the saga.
This nation of gods, like nations of men, contained foreign elements, the origin of which was known to the Egyptians themselves. They knew that Hâthor, the milch cow, had taken up her abode in their land from very ancient times, and they called her the Lady of Pûanît, after the name of her native country. Bîsû had followed her in course of time, and claimed his share of honours and worship along with her. He first appeared as a leopard; then he became a man clothed in a leopard's skin, but of strange countenance and alarming character, a big-headed dwarf with high cheek-bones, and a wide and open mouth, whence hung an enormous tongue; he was at once jovial and martial, the friend of the dance and of battle.
The sky, the earth, the stars, the sun, the Nile, were so many breathing and thinking beings whose lives were daily manifest in the life of the universe.
They were worshiped from one end of the valley to the other, and the whole nation agreed in proclaiming their sovereign power. But when the people began to name them, to define their powers and attributes, to particularize their forms, or the relationships that subsisted among them, this unanimity was at an end. Each principality, each nome, each city, almost every village, conceived and represented them differently. Some said that the sky was the Great Horus, Haroêris, the sparrow-hawk of mottled plumage which hovers in highest air, and whose gaze embraces the whole field of creation. Owing to a punning assonance between his name and the word horû, which designates the human countenance, the two senses were combined, and to the idea of the sparrow-hawk there was added that of a divine face, whose two eyes opened in turn, the right eye being the sun, to give light by day, and the left eye the moon, to illumine the night.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from a painted coffin of the XXIth dynasty in Leyden.
Most people invested them with human form, and represented the earth-god Sibû as extended beneath Nûît the Starry One; the goddess stretched out her arms, stretched out her slender legs, stretched out her body above the clouds, and her dishevelled head drooped westward. But there were also many who believed that Sibû was concealed under the form of a colossal gander, whose mate once laid the Sun Egg, and perhaps still laid it daily. From the piercing cries wherewith he congratulated her, and announced the good news to all who cared to hear it—after the manner of his kind—he had received the flattering epithet of Ngagu oîrû, the Great Cack-ler. Other versions repudiated the goose in favour of a vigorous bull, the father of gods and men, whose companion was a cow, a large-eyed Hâthor, of beautiful countenance. The head of the good beast rises into the heavens, the mysterious waters which cover the world flow along her spine; the star-covered underside of her body, which we call the firmament, is visible to the inhabitants of earth, and her four legs are the four pillars standing at the four cardinal points of the world.
The planets, and especially the sun, varied in form and nature according to the prevailing conception of the heavens. The fiery disk Atonû, by which the sun revealed himself to men, was a living god, called Râ, as was also the planet itself. Where the sky was regarded as Horus, Râ formed the right eye of the divine face: when Horus opened his eyelids in the morning, he made the dawn and day; when he closed them in the evening, the dusk and night were at hand.
The name of Râ has been variously explained. The commonest etymology is that deriving the name from a verb râ, to give, to make to be a person or a thing, so that Râ would thus be the great organizer, the author of all things. Lauth goes so far as to say that notwithstanding its brevity, Râ is a composite word (r-a, maker—to be)" As a matter of fact, the word is simply the name of the planet applied to the god. It means the sun, and nothing more.
Where the sky was looked upon as the incarnation of a goddess, Râ was considered as her son,[**] his father being the earth-god, and he was born again with every new dawn, wearing a sidelock, and with his finger to his lips as human children were conventionally represented.Several passages from the Pyramid texts prove that the two eyes were very anciently considered as belonging to the face of Nûît, and this conception persisted to the last days of Egyptian paganism. Hence, we must not be surprised if the inscriptions generally represent the god Râ as coming forth from Nûît under the form of a disc, or a scarabaeus, and born of her even as human children are born.
These are the very expressions used in the seventeenth chapter of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, vol. i. pl. xxv. lines 58-61; epsius,Todtenbuch, pl. ix. 11. 50, 51)
* The lapwing or the heron, the Egyptian bonû, is generally the Osirian bird. The persistence with which it is associated with Heliopolis and the gods of that city shows that in this also we have a secondary form of Râ.
** The calf is represented in ch. cix. of the Book of the Dead (Naville's edition, pl. cxx.), where the text says (lines 10, 11), "I know that this calf is Harmakhis the Sun, and that it is no other than the Morning Star, daily saluting Râ." The expression "sucking calf of pure mouth" is taken word for word from a formula preserved in the Pyramid texts (Ûnas, 1. 20)
In Upper Egypt there is a widespread belief in the existence of a monstrous serpent, who dwells at the bottom of the river, and is the genius of the Nile. It is he who brings about those falls of earth (batabît) at the declineof the inundation which often destroy the banks and eat whole fields.
Part of a scene of the fourth hour of the Book of the Gates from KV2, tomb of Rameses IV. Analysis: "the time is like a serpent, of which the nocturnal hours are born like goddesses. After its trip they are devoured again by the serpent. The blue triangles represent the water in the underworld".
Ra and Apep
The same stream also carried a whole crowd of gods, whose existence was revealed at night only to the inhabitants of earth. At an interval of twelve hours, and in its own bark, the pale disk of the moon— Yâûhû Aûhû—followed the disk of the sun along the ramparts of the world. The moon, also, appeared in many various forms—here, as a man born of Nûît;[*] there, as a cynocephalus or an ibis;[**] elsewhere, it was the left eye of Horus,[***] guarded by the ibis or cynocephalus. Like Râ,it had its enemies incessantly upon the watchfor it: the crocodile, the hippopotamus, and the sow. But it was when at the full, about the 15th of each month, that the lunar eye was in greatest peril.
* He may be seen as a child, or man, bearing the lunar disk upon his head, and pressing the lunar eye to his breast. Passages from the Pyramid text of Unas indicate the relationship subsisting between Thot, Sibû, and Nûît, making Thot the brother of Isis, Sit, and Nephthys. In later times he was considered a son of Râ.
** Even as late as the Græco-Roman period, the temple of Thot at Khmûnû contained a sacred ibis, which was the incarnation of the god, and said to be immortal by the local priesthood. The temple sacristans showed it to Apion the grammarian, who reports the fact, but is very sceptical in the matter.
*** The texts quoted by Chabas and Lepsius to show that the sun is the right eye of Horus also prove that his left eye is the moon.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from the ceiling of the Ramesseum. On the right, the female hippopotamus bearing the crocodile, and leaning on the Monâît; in the middle, the Haunch, here represented by the whole bull; to the left, Selkit and the Sparrow-hawk, with the Lion, and the Giant fighting the Crocodile.
Sahû and Sopdît, Orion and Sirius, were the rulers of this mysterious world. Sahû consisted of fifteen stars, seven large and eight small, so arranged as to represent a runner darting through space, while the fairest of them shone above his head, and marked him out from afar to the admiration of mortals.
* The identity of the cow with Sothis (Sirus) was discovered by Jollois and Devilliers. It is under this animal form that Sothis is represented in most of the Græco-Roman temples, at Denderah, Edfû, Esneh, Dêr el-Medîneh.
Sothis is the name of a star that the Egyptians considered unusually significant. The star is not explicitly identified, but there are enough clues for modern scholars to be almost unanimous in identifying Sothis as Sirus.
The nome gods who presided over the destinies of Egyptian cities, and formed a true feudal system of divinities, belonged to one or other of these natural categories. But the earth in general, as distinguished from the sky—the earth with its continents, its seas, its alternation of barren deserts and fertile lands—was represented as a man: Phtah (Ptah) at Memphis, Amon at Thebes, Mînû (Min) at Coptos and at Panopolis. Amon seems rather to have symbolized the productive soil, while Mînû reigned over the desert. But these were fine distinctions, not invariably insisted upon, and his worshippers often invested Amon with the most significant attributes of Mînû
Amun-Min as Amun-Ra ka-Mut-ef from the temple at Deir el Medina.
The Sky-gods, like the Earth-gods, were separated into two groups, the one consisting of women: Hâthor of Denderah, or Nît (Nut) of Sais; the other composed of men identical with Horus, or derived from him: Anhûri-Shû of Sebennytos and Thinis; Harmerati, Horus of the two eyes, at Pharbaethos; Har-Sapdi, Horus the source of the zodiacal light, in the Wâdy Tumilât; and finally Harhûdîti at Edfû. Râ, the solar disk, was enthroned at Heliopolis, and sun-gods were numerous among the nome deities, but they were sun-gods closely connected with gods representing the sky, and resembled Horus quite as much as Râ. Whether under the name of Horus or of Anhûri, the sky was early identified with its most brilliant luminary, its solar eye, and its divinity was as it were fused into that of the Sun. Horus the Sun, and Râ, the Sun-God of Heliopolis, had so permeated each other that none could say where the one began and the other ended. One by one all the functions of Râ had been usurped by Horus, and all the designations of Horus had been appropriated by Râ. The sun was styled Harmakhûîti, the Horus of the two mountains—that is, the Horus who comes forth from the mountain of the east in the morning, and retires at evening into the mountain of the west; or Hartimâ, Horus the Pikeman, that Horus whose lance spears the hippopotamus or the serpent of the celestial river; or Harnûbi, the Golden Horus, the great golden sparrow-hawk with mottled plumage, who puts all other birds to flight; and these titles were indifferently applied to each of the feudal gods who represented the sun.
Hathor chapel at the temple of Thutmosis III. in Deir el-Bahari
The animal gods, whether entirely in the form of beasts, or having human bodies attached to animal heads, shared omnipotence with those in human form. Horus of Hibonû swooped down upon the back of a gazelle like a hunting hawk, Hâthor of Denderah was a cow, Bastit (Baset) of Bubastis was a cat or a tigress, while Nekhabit of El Kab was a great bald-headed vulture . Hermopolis worshipped the ibis and cynocephalus of Thot; Oxyrrhynchus the mor-myrus fish; and Ombos and the Fayûm a crocodile, under the name of Sobkû, sometimes with the epithet of Azaï, the brigand.
Azaï is generally considered to be the Osiris of the Fayûm, but he was only transformed into Osiris, and that by the most daring process of assimilation. His full name defines him as Osiri Azaï hi halt To-sit (Osiris the Brigand, who is in the Fayûm), that is to say, as Sovkû identified with Osiris.
Most of the feudal divinities began their lives in solitary grandeur, apart from, and often hostile to, their neighbours. Families were assigned to them later. Each appropriated two companions and formed a trinity, or as it is generally called, a triad. But there were several kinds of triads. In nomes subject to a god, the local deity was frequently content with one wife and one son; but often he was united to two goddesses, who were at once his sisters and his wives according to the national custom. Thus, Thot of Hermopolis possessed himself of a harem consisting of Seshaît-Safk-hîtâbûi and Hahmâûît. Tûmû divided the homage of the inhabitants of Helio-polis with Nebthôtpît and with Iûsasît. Khnûmû seduced and married the two fairies of the neighbouring cataract—Anûkît.
A triad containing two goddesses produced no legitimate offspring, and was unsatisfactory to a people who regarded the lack of progeny as a curse from heaven; one in which the presence of a son promised to ensure the perpetuity of the race was more in keeping with the idea of a blessed and prosperous family, as that of gods should be. Triads of the former kind were therefore almost everywhere broken up into two new triads, each containing a divine father, a divine mother, and a divine son.
In the beginning, Râ was the sun itself, whose fires appear to be lighted every morning in the east and to be extinguished at evening in the west; and to the people such he always remained. Among the theologians there was considerable difference of opinion on the point. Some held the disk of the sun to be the body which the god assumes when presenting himself for the adoration of his worshipers. Others affirmed that it rather represented his active and radiant soul. Finally, there were many who defined it as one of his forms of being—khopriû—one of his self-manifestations, without presuming to decide whether it was his body or his soul which he deigned to reveal to human eyes; but whether soul or body, all agreed that the sun's disk had existed in the Nû before creation. But how could it have lain beneath the primordial ocean without either drying up the waters or being extinguished by them? At this stage the identification of Râ with Horus and his right eye served the purpose of the theologians admirably: the god needed only to have closed his eyelid in order to prevent his fires from coming in contact with the water.
One division of the Heliopolitan school retained the use of traditional terms and images in reference to Sun-gods. To the first it left the human form, and the title of Râ, with the abstract sense of creator, deriving the name from the verb râ, which means to give. For the second it kept the form of the sparrow-hawk and the name of Harma-khûîti—Horus in the two horizons—which clearly denoted his function;[*] and it summed up the idea of the sun as a whole in the single name of Râ-Harmakhûîti, and in a single image in which the hawk-head of Horus was grafted upon the human body of Râ. The other divisions of the school invented new names for new conceptions. The sun existing before the world they called Creator—Tûmû, Atûmû [—and our earthly sun they called Khopri—He who is.
* Harmakhûîti is Horus, the sky of the two horizons; i.e. the sky of the daytime, and the night sky. When the celestial Horus was confounded with Râ, and became the sun (cf. p. 133), he naturally also became the sun of the two horizons, the sun by day, and the sun by night.
Tûmû was a man crowned and clothed with the insignia of supreme power, a true king of gods, majestic and impassive as the Pharaohs who succeeded each other upon the throne of Egypt. The conception of Khopri as a disk enclosing a scarabæus, or a man with a scarabous upon his head, or a scarabus-headed mummy, was suggested by the accidental alliteration of his name and that of Khopirrû, the scarabæus. The difference between the possible forms of the god was so slight as to be eventually lost altogether. His names were grouped by twos and threes in every conceivable way, and the scarabæus of Khopri took its place upon the head of Râ, while the hawk headpiece was transferred from the shoulders of Harmakhûîti to those of Tûmû. The complex beings resulting from these combinations, Râ-Tûmû, Atûmû-Râ, Râ-Tûmû-Khopri, Râ-Harmakhûîti-Tûmû, Tûm-Harmakhûîti-Khopri, never attained to any pronounced individuality.
They were as a rule simple duplicates of the feudal god, names rather than persons, and though hardly taken for one another indiscriminately, the distinctions between them had reference to mere details of their functions and attributes. Hence arose the idea of making these gods into embodiments of the main phases in the life of the sun during the day and throughout the year. Râ symbolized the sun of springtime and before sunrise, Harmakhûîti the summer and the morning sun, Atûmû the sun of autumn and of afternoon, Khopri that of winter and of night. The people of Heliopolis accepted the new names and the new forms presented for their worship, but always subordinated them to their beloved Râ. For them Râ never ceased to be the god of the nome; while Atûmû remained the god of the theologians, and was invoked by them, the people preferred Râ. At Thinis and at Sebennytos Anhûri incurred the same fate as befell Râ at Heliopolis. After he had been identified with the sun, the similar identification of Shû inevitably followed. Of old, Anhûri and Shû were twin gods, incarnations of sky and earth. They were soon but one god in two persons—the god Anhûri-Shû, of which the one half under the title of Auhûri represented, like Atûmû, the primordial being; and Shû, the other half, became, as his name indicates, the creative sun-god who upholds (shû) the sky.
The Heliopolitan doctrine recognized three principal events in the creation of the universe: the dualization of the supreme god and the breaking forth of light, the raising of the sky and the laying bare of the earth, the birth of the Nile and the allotment of the soil of Egypt, all expressed as the manifestations of successive deities. Of these deities, the latter ones already constituted a family of father, mother, and children, like human families. Learned theologians availed themselves of this example to effect analogous relationships between the rest of the gods, combining them all into one line of descent. As Atûmû-Râ could have no fellow, he stood apart in the first rank, and it was decided that Shû should be his son, whom he had formed out of himself alone, on the first day of creation, by the simple intensity of his own virile energy. Shû, reduced to the position of divine son, had in his turn begotten Sibû and Nûît, the two deities which he separated. Until then he had not been supposed to have any wife, and he also might have himself brought his own progeny into being; but lest a power of spontaneous generation equal to that of the demiurge should be ascribed to him, he was married, and the wife found for him was Tafnûît, his twin sister, born in the same way as he was born. This goddess, invented for the occasion, was never fully alive, and remained, like Nephthys, a theological entity rather than a real person. The texts describe her as the pale reflex of her husband.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a vignette in the papyrus of Ani in the British Museum, published by Lepage-Renouf in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Archæology, vol. xi., 1889-90, pp. 26-28. The inscription above the lion on the right reads safu, "yesterday;" the other, dûaû, "this morning."
Together with him she upholds the sky, and every morning receives the newborn sun as it emerges from the mountain of the east; she is a lioness when Shû is a lion, a woman when he is a man, a lioness-headed woman if he is a lion-headed man; she is angry when he is angry, appeased when he is appeased; she has no sanctuary wherein he is not worshipped. In short, the pair made one being in two bodies, or, to use the Egyptian expression, "one soul in its two twin bodies."
Hence we see that the Heliopolitans proclaimed the creation to be the work of the sun-god, Atûmû-Râ, and of the four pairs of deities who were descended from him. It was really a learned variant of the old doctrine that the universe was composed of a sky-god, Horus, supported by his four children and their four pillars: in fact, the four sons of the Heliopolitan cosmogony, Shû and Sibû, Osiris and Sit, were occasionally substituted for the four older gods of the "houses" of the world.This being premised, attention must be given to the important differences between the two systems. At the outset, instead of appearing contemporaneously upon the scene, like the four children of Horus, the four Heliopolitan gods were deduced one from another, and succeeded each other in the order of their birth. They had not that uniform attribute of supporter, associating them always with one definite function, but each of them felt himself endowed with faculties and armed with special powers required by his condition. Ultimately they took to themselves goddesses, and thus the total number of beings working in different ways at the organization of the universe was brought up to nine. Hence they were called by the collective name of the Ennead, the Nine gods—paûit nûtîrû,[*]—and the god at their head was entitled Paûîti, the god of the Ennead.
* The interpretation a Nine, an Ennead, was not frankly adopted until later, and more especially after the discovery of the Pyramid texts; to-day, it is the only meaning admitted. Of course the Egyptian Ennead has no other connection than that of name with the Enneads of the Neo-Platonists.
The four sons of Horus: (from left) Imsety, Duamutef, Hapy, and Qebehsenuef. Part of the ancient Egyptian religion, the four sons of Horus
The theologians of Heliopolis selected eighteen from among the innumerable divinities of the feudal cults of Egypt, and of these they formed two secondary Enneads, who were regarded as the offspring of the Ennead of the creation. The first of the two secondary Enneads, generally known as the Minor Ennead, recognized as chief Harsiesis, the son of Osiris. Harsiesis was originally an earth-god who had avenged the assassination of his father and the banishment of his mother by Sit; that is, he had restored fulness to the Nile and fertility to the Delta.
We see only that these were the gods who chiefly protected the sun-god against its enemies and helped it to follow its regular course. Thus Harhûditi, the Horus of Edfû, spear in hand, pursues the hippopotami or serpents which haunt the celestial waters and menace the god. The progress of the Sun-bark is controlled by the incantations of Thot, while Uapûaîtû, the dual jackal-god of Siufc, guides, and occasionally tows it along the sky from south to north. The third Ennead would seem to have included among its members Anubis the jackal, and the four funerary genii, the children of Horus—Hapi, Amsît, Tiûmaûtf, Kabhsonûf; it further appears as though its office was the care and defence of the dead sun, the sun by night, as the second Ennead had charge of the living sun. Its functions were so obscure and apparently so insignificant as compared with those exercised by the other Enneads, that the theologians did not take the trouble either to represent it or to enumerate its persons.
The doctrine of the Heliopolitan Ennead acquired an immediate and a lasting popularity. It presented such a clear scheme of creation, and one whose organization was so thoroughly in accordance with the spirit of tradition, that the various sacerdotal colleges adopted it one after another, accommodating it to the exigencies of local patriotism. Each placed its own nome-god at the head of the Ennead as "god of the Nine," "god of the first time," creator of heaven and earth, sovereign ruler of men, and lord of all action. As there was the Ennead of Atûmû at Heliopolis, so there was that of Anhûri at Thinis and at Sebennytos; that of Minû at Coptos and at Panopolis; that of Haroêris at Edfû; that of Sobkhû at Ombos; and, later, that of Phtah at Memphis and of Amon at Thebes. Nomes which worshipped a goddess had no scruples whatever in ascribing to her the part played by Atûmû, and in crediting her with the spontaneous maternity of Shû and Tafnûît.
Nît was the source and ruler of the Ennead of Saïs, Isis of that of Bûto, and Hâthor of that of Denderah.[**] Few of the sacerdotal colleges went beyond the substitution of their own feudal gods for Atûmû. Provided that the god of each nome held the rank of supreme lord, the rest mattered little, and the local theologians made no change in the order of the other agents of creation, their vanity being unhurt even by the lower offices assigned by the Heliopolitan tradition to such powers as Osiris, Sibû, and Sit, who were known and worshiped throughout the whole country.
** On the Ennead of Hâthor at Denderah, see Mariette, Denderah, p. 80., et seq., of the text. The fact that Nît, Isis, and, generally speaking, all the feudal goddesses, were the chiefs of their local Enneads, is proved by the epithets applied to them, which represent them as having independent creative power by virtue of their own unaided force and energy, like the god at the head of the Heliopolitan Ennead.
Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from a photograph by Béato. Cf. Lepsius, Denkm., iv. pl. 66 c. In this illustration I have combined! the two extremities of a great scene at Philæ, in which the Eight, divided into two groups of four, frog- headed men, and the goddesses serpent-headed women. Morning and evening do they sing; and the mysterious hymns wherewith they salute the rising and the setting sun ensure the continuity of his course. Their names did not survive their metamorphoses; each pair had no longer more than a single name, the termination of each name varying according as a god or a goddess was intended:—Nu and Nûît, Hehû and Hehît, Kakû and Kakît, Ninû and Ninît, the god One and the god Eight, the Monad and the Ogdoad. The latter had scarcely more than a theoretical existence, and was generally absorbed into the person of the former. Thus the theologians of Hermopolis gradually disengaged the unity of their feudal god from the multiplicity of the cosmogonie deities.
The four couples who had helped Atûmû were identified with the four auxiliary gods of Thot, and changed the council of Five into a Great Hermopolitan Ennead, but at the cost of strange metamorphoses. However artificially they had been grouped about Atûmû, they had all preserved such distinctive characteristics as prevented their being confounded one with another. When the universe which they had helped to build up was finally seen to be the result of various operations demanding a considerable manifestation of physical energy, each god was required to preserve the individuality necessary for the production of such effects as were expected of him. They could not have existed and carried on their work without conforming to the ordinary conditions of humanity; being born one of another, they were bound to have paired with living goddesses as capable of bringing forth their children as they were of begetting them. On the other hand, the four auxiliary gods of Hermopolis exercised but one means of action—the voice. Having themselves come forth from the master's mouth, it was by voice that they created and perpetuated the world. Apparently they could have done without goddesses had marriage not been imposed upon them by their identification with the corresponding gods of the Heliopolitan Ennead; at any rate, their wives had but a show of life, almost destitute of reality. As these four gods worked after the manner of their master, Thot, so they also bore his form and reigned along with him as so many baboons. When associated with the lord of Hermopolis, the eight divinities of Heliopolis assumed the character and the appearance of the four Hermopolitan gods in whom they were merged. They were often represented as eight baboons surrounding the supreme baboon, or as four pairs of gods and goddesses without either characteristic attributes or features; or, finally, as four pairs of gods and goddesses, the gods being, as far as we are able to judge, the couple Nû-Nûît answers to Shû-Tafnûît; Hahû-Hehît to Sibû and Nûîfc; Kakû-Kakît to Osiris and Isis; Ninû-Ninît to Sit and Nephthys. There was seldom any occasion to invoke them separately; they were addressed collectively as the Eight—Khmûnû—and it was on their account that Hermopolis was named Khmûnû, the City of the Eight. Ultimately they were deprived of the little individual life still left to them, and were fused into a single being to whom the texts refer as Khomninû, the god Eight.
Thanks to this subterfuge, to put a triad at the head of an Ennead was nothing more than a roundabout way of placing a single god there: the three persons only counted as one, and the eleven names only amounted to the nine canonical divinities. Thus, the Theban Ennead of Amon-Maut-Khonsû, Shû, Tafnûît, Sibû, Nûît, Osiris, Isis, Sît, and Nephthys, is, in spite of its apparent irregularity, as correct as the typical Ennead itself. In such Enneads Isis is duplicated by goddesses of like nature, such as Hâthor, Selkît, Taninît, and yet remains but one, while Osiris brings in his son Horus, who gathers about himself all such gods as play the part of divine son in other triads. The theologians had various methods of procedure for keeping the number of persons in an Ennead at nine, no matter how many they might choose to embrace in it. Supernumeraries were thrown in like the "shadows" at Roman suppers, whom guests would bring without warning to their host, and whose presence made not the slightest difference either in the provision for the feast, or in the arrangements for those who had been formally invited. Thus remodelled at all points, the Ennead of Heliopolis was readily adjustable to sacerdotal caprices, and even profited by the facilities which, the triad afforded for its natural expansion.
Thus remodelled at all points, the Ennead of Heliopolis was readily adjustable to sacerdotal caprices, and even profited by the facilities which, the triad afforded for its natural expansion.
The employment of these talismans was dangerous to those unaccustomed to use them, even to the gods themselves. Scarcely was Sibû enthroned as the successor of Shu, who, tired of reigning, had reascended into heaven in a nine days' tempest, before he began his inspection of the eastern marches, and caused the box in which was kept the uræus of Râ to be opened. "As soon as the living viper had breathed its breath against the Majesty of Sibû there was a great disaster—great indeed, for those who were in the train of the god perished, and his Majesty himself was burned in that day. When his Majesty had fled to the north of Aît-nobsû, pursued by the fire of this magic urasus, behold! when he came to the fields of henna, the pain of his burn was not yet assuaged, and the gods who were behind him said unto him: 'O Sire! let them take the lock of Râ which is there, when thy Majesty shall go to see it and its mystery, and his Majesty shall be healed as soon as it shall be placed upon thee.' So the Majesty of Sibû caused the magic lock to be brought to Piarît,—the lock for which was made that great reliquary of hard stone which is hidden in the secret place of Piarît, in the district of the divine lock of the Lord Râ,—and behold! this fire departed from the members of the Majesty of Sibû. And many years afterwards, when this lock, which had thus belonged to Sibû, was brought back to Piarît in Aît-nobsû, and cast into the great lake of Piarît whose name is Aît-tostesû, the dwelling of waves, that it might be purified, behold! this lock became a crocodile: it flew to the water and became Sobkû, the divine crocodile of Aît-nobsû." In this way the gods of the solar dynasty from generation to generation multiplied talismans and enriched the sanctuaries of Egypt with relics.
ReferenceG. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Babylonia, and Assyria Vol. I