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Legends of the Gods

By E. A. Wallis Budge

Third Explanation of the Story

XXXII. Such then are the arguments of those who endeavour to account for the above-mentioned history of Isis and Osiris upon a supposition that they were of the order of Daemons; but there are others who pretend to explain it upon other principles, and in more philosophical manner. To begin, then, with those whose reasoning is the most simple and obvious. As the Greeks allegorize their Kronos into Time, and their Hera into Air, and tell us that the birth of Hephaistos is no other but the change of air into fire, so these philosophers say that by Osiris the Egyptians mean the Nile, by Isis that part of the country which Osiris, or the Nile, overflows, and by Typhon the sea, which, by receiving the Nile as it runs into it, does, as it were, tear it into many pieces, and indeed entirely destroys it, excepting only so much of it as is admitted into the bosom of the earth in its passage over it, which is thereby rendered fertile. The truth of this explanation is confirmed, they say, by that sacred dirge which they make over Osiris when they bewail "him who was born on the right side of the world and who perished on the left." 1 For it must be observed that the Egyptians look upon the east as the front or face of the world, 2 upon the north as its right side, 3 and upon the south as its left. 1 As, therefore, the Nile rises in the south, and running directly northwards is at last swallowed up by the sea, it may rightly enough be said to be born on the right and to perish on the left side, This conclusion, they say, is still farther strengthened from that abhorrence which the priests express towards the sea, as well as salt, which they call "Typhon's foam." And amongst their prohibitions is one which forbids salt being laid on their tables. And do they not also carefully avoid speaking to pilots, because this class of men have much to do with the sea and get their living by it? And this is not the least of their reasons for the great dislike which they have for fish, and they even make the fish a symbol of "hatred," as is proved by the pictures which are to be seen on the porch of the temple of Neith at Saïs. The first of these is a child, the second is an old man, the third is a hawk, and then follow a fish and a hippopotamus. The meaning of all these is evidently, "O you who are coming into the world, and you who are going out of it (i.e., both young and old), God hateth impudence." For by the child is indicated "all those who are coming into life"; by the old man, "those who are going out of it"; by the hawk, "God"; by the fish, "hatred," on account of the sea, as has been before stated; and by the hippopotamus, "impudence," this creature being said first to slay his sire, and afterwards to force his dam. 1 The Pythagoreans likewise may be thought perhaps by some to have looked upon the sea as impure, and quite different from all the rest of nature, and that thus much is intended by them when they call it the "tears of Kronos."

239:1 Plutarch here refers to Osiris as the Moon, which rises in the West.

239:2 According to the texts the front of the world was the south, khent,  and from this word is formed the verb   "to sail to the south."

239:3 In the texts the west is the right side, unemi,  in Coptic,  .

240:1 In the texts the east is the left side, abti.



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