Historical Reprints History EGYPTIAN MYTH AND LEGEND


Catalog # SKU0978
Publisher TGS Publishing
Weight 1.60 lbs
Author Name Donald Mackenzie



by Donald Mackenzie

With Historical Narrative,
Notes on Race Problems,
Comparative Beliefs

In this volume the myths and legends of ancient Egypt are embraced in a historical narrative which begins with the rise of the great Nilotic civilization and ends with the Græco-Roman Age. The principal deities are dealt with chiefly at the various periods in which they came into prominence, while the legends are so arranged as to throw light on the beliefs and manners and customs of the ancient people. Metrical renderings are given of such of the representative folk songs and poems as can be appreciated at the present day.

Excerpt: from the Introduction

"CLEOPATRA'S NEEDLE", on the Thames Embankment, affords us an introduction to ancient Egypt, "the land of marvels" and of strange and numerous deities. This obelisk was shaped from a single block of red granite quarried at Assouan by order of one of the old Pharaohs; it is 68 feet 5½, inches high, and weighs 186 tons. Like one of our own megalithic monuments, it is an interesting relic of stone worship. Primitive man believed that stones were inhabited by spirits which had to be propitiated with sacrifices and offerings, and, long after higher conceptions obtained, their crude beliefs survived among their descendants. This particular monument was erected as a habitation for one of the spirits of the sun god; in ancient Egypt the gods were believed to have had many spirits.

The "Needle" was presented to the British Government in 1820, and in 1877-8 was transported hither by Sir Erasmus Wilson at a cost of 10,000. For about eighteen centuries it had been a familiar object at Alexandria. Its connection with the famous Queen Cleopatra is uncertain; she may have ordered it to be removed from its original site on account of its archæological interest, for it was already old in her day. It was first erected at Heliopolis thirty-two centuries ago. But even then Egypt was a land of ancient memories; the great Pyramids, near Cairo, were aged about 500 years, and the Calendar had been in existence for over fourteen centuries.

Heliopolis, "the city of the sun", is called On in the Bible. It was there that Moses was educated, and became "mighty in word and in deed". Joseph had previously married, at On, Asenath, the daughter of Potiphera, a priest of the sun temple, the site of which, at modern Matarieh, is marked by an erect obelisk of greater antiquity even than the "Needle". Near by are a holy well and a holy tree, long invested with great sanctity by local tradition. Coptic Christians and native Mohammedans still relate that when Joseph and Mary fled with the infant Christ into Egypt, to escape the fierce King Herod, they rested under the tree, and that Mary washed in the well the swaddling clothes of the holy child.


When the mysterious cave-dwellers were at the height of their power, they must have multiplied rapidly, and it is not improbable that some of their surplus stock poured into the Delta region. Their mode of life must have peculiarly fitted them for residence in towns, and it may be that the distinctive character of the mythology of Memphis was due to their presence in no inconsiderable numbers in that cosmopolitan city.

There is no indication that the Dynastic Egyptians, who first made their appearance in the upper part of the Nile valley, utilized the quarries prior to their conquest of Lower Egypt. They were a brick-making people, and their early tombs at Abydos were constructed of brick and wood. But after King Mena had united the two kingdoms by force of arms, stone working was introduced into Upper Egypt. A granite floor was laid in the tomb of King Usephais of the First Dynasty. This sudden transition from brick making to granite working is very remarkable. It Is interesting to note, however, that the father of Usephais is recorded to have erected a stone temple at Hierakonpolis. Probably it was constructed of limestone. As much is suggested by the finish displayed in the limestone chamber of the brick tomb of King Khasekhemui of the Second Dynasty. Brick, however, continued in use until King Zoser of the Third Dynasty, which began about 2930 B.C., had constructed of stone, for his tomb, the earliest Egyptian pyramid near Memphis.

It is highly probable that it was the experienced limestone workers of the north, and not the brickmakers of Upper Egypt, who first utilized granite. The Pharaohs of the First Dynasty may have drafted southward large numbers of the skilled workers who were settled at Memphis, or in its vicinity. We seem to trace the presence of a northern colony in Upper Egypt by the mythological beliefs which obtained in the vicinity of the granite quarries at Assouan. The chief god of the First Cataract was Khnumu, who bears a close resemblance to Ptah, the artisan god of Memphis.

We have now dealt with two distinct kinds of supreme deities-the Great Father, and the Great Mother with her son. It is apparent that they were conceived of and developed by peoples of divergent origin and different habits of life, who mingled in Egypt under the influence of a centralized government. The ultimate result was a fusion of religious beliefs and the formulation of a highly complex mythology which was never thoroughly systematized at any period. The Great Father then became the husband of the Great Mother, or the son god was exalted as "husband of his mother". Thus Ptah was given for wife Sekhet, the fierce lioness-headed mother, who resembles Tefnut and other feline goddesses. Osiris, the son of Isis and Nepthys, on the other hand, became "husband of his mother", or mothers; he was recognized as the father of Horus, son of Isis, and of Anubis, son of Nepthys. Another myth makes him displace the old earth god Seb, son of Nut. Osiris was also a son of Nut, an earlier form of Isis. So was Seb, who became "husband of his mother". That Seb and Osiris were fused is evident in one of the temple chants, in which Isis, addressing Osiris, says: "Thy soul possesseth the earth".

In Asia Minor, where the broad-headed patriarchal Alpine hill people blended with the long-headed matriarchal Mediterranean people, the Pappas god (Attis, Adon) became likewise the husband of the Ma goddess (Nana). A mythological scene sculptured upon a cliff at Ibreez in Cappadocia is supposed to represent the marriage of the two Great Father and Mother deities, and. it is significant to find that the son accompanies the self-created bride. As in Egypt, the father and the son were fused and at times are indistinguishable in the legends.

It now remains with us to deal with the worship of the solar disk. This religion was unknown to the early Mediterranean people who spread through Europe and reached the British Isles and Ireland. Nor did it rise into prominence in the land of the Pharaohs until after the erection of the Great Pyramids near Cairo. The kings did not become "sons of the sun" until the Fifth Dynasty.

Paperback, 5 x 8, 350+ pages