Legends of the Gods
The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations
by E. A. Wallis Budge
London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trübner & Co. Ltd.
THE HISTORY OF ISIS AND OSIRIS
WITH EXPLANATIONS OF THE SAME, COLLECTED BY PLUTARCH, AND SUPPLEMENTED BY HIS OWN VIEWS
SECOND EXPLANATION OF THE STORY
There is another and a better method which some employ in explaining this story. They assert that what is related of Typhon, Osiris, and Isis is not to be regarded as the afflictions of gods, or of mere mortals, but rather as the adventures of certain great Daemons. These beings, they say, are supposed by some of the wisest of the Greek philosophers, that is to say, Plato, Pythagoras, Xenocrates, and Chrysippus, in accordance with what they had learned from ancient theologians, to be stronger and more powerful than men, and of a nature superior to them.
They are, at the same time, inferior to the pure and unmixed nature of the gods, as partaking of the sensations of the body, as well as of the perceptions of the soul, and consequently liable to pain as well as pleasure, and to such other appetites and affections, as flow from their various combinations. Such affections, however, have a greater power and influence over some of them than over others, just as there are different degrees of virtue and vice found in these Daemons as well as in mankind. In like manner, the wars of the Giants and the Titans which are so much spoken of by the Greeks, the detestable actions of Kronos, the combats between Apollo and the Python, the flights of Dionysos, and the wanderings of Demeter, are exactly of the same nature as the adventures of Osiris and Typhon. Therefore, they all are to be accounted for in the same manner, and every treatise of mythology will readily furnish us with an abundance of other similar instances. The same thing may also be affirmed of those other things which are so carefully concealed under the cover of mysteries and imitations.
Plutarch points out that Homer calls great and good men "god-like" and "God's compeers," but the word Daemon is applied to the good and bad indifferently (see Odyssey, vi. 12; Iliad, xiii. 810, v. 438, iv. 31, ). Plato assigns to the Olympian Gods good things and the odd numbers, and the opposite to the Daemons. Xenocrates believed in the existence of a series of strong and powerful beings which take pleasure in scourgings and fastings, Hesiod speaks of "holy daemons" (Works and Days, 126) and "guardians of mankind," and "bestowers of wealth," and these are regarded by Plato as a "middle order of beings between the gods and men, interpreters of the wills of the gods to men, and ministering to their wants, carrying the prayers and supplications of mortals to heaven, and bringing down thence in return oracles and all other blessings of life." Empedocles thought that the Daemons underwent punishment, and that when chastened and purified they were restored to their original state.
To this class belonged Typhon, who was punished by Isis. in memory of all she had done and suffered, she established certain rites and mysteries which were to be types and images of her deeds, and intended these to incite people to piety, and, to afford them consolation. Isis and Osiris were translated from good Daemons into gods, and the honours due to them are rightly of a mixed kind, being those due to gods and Daemons. Osiris is none other than Pluto, and Isis is not different from Proserpine.
Typhon is held by the Egyptians in the greatest contempt, and they do all they can to vilify him. The eolour red being associated with him, they treat with contumely all those who have a ruddy complexion; the ass 1 being usually of a reddish colour, the men of Koptos are in the habit of sacrificing asses by casting them down precipices. The inhabitants of Busiris and Lycopolis never use trumpets, because their sounds resemble the braying of an ass. The cakes which are offered at the festivals during Paoni and Paopi are stamped with the figure of a fettered ass. The Pythagoreans regarded Typhon as a daemon, and according to them he was produced in the even number fifty-six; and Eudoxus says that a figure of fifty-six angles typifies the nature of Typhon.
The Egyptians only sacrifice red-coloured bulls, and a single black or white hair in the animal's head disqualifies it for sacrifice. They sacrifice creatures wherein the souls of the wicked have been confined, and through this view arose the custom of cursing the animal to be sacrificed, and cutting off its bead and throwing it into the Nile. No bullock is sacrificed which has not on it the seal of the priests who were called "Sealers." The impression from this seal represents a man upon his knees, with his hands tied behind him, and a sword pointed at his throat. The ass is identified with Typhon not only because of his colour, but also because of his stupidity and the sensuality of his disposition. The Persian king Ochus was nicknamed the "Ass," which made him to say, "This ass shall dine upon your ox," and accordingly he slew Apis. Typhon is said to have escaped from Horus by a flight of seven days on an ass.
1 The ass is associated with Set, or Typhon, in the texts, but on account of his virility he also typifies a form of the Sun-god. In a hymn the deceased prays, "May I smite the Ass, may I crush the serpent-fiend Sebau," but the XLth Chapter of the Book of the Dead is entitled, "Chapter of driving back the Eater of the Ass." The vignette shows us the deceased in the act of spearing a monster serpent which has fastened its jaws in the back of an ass. In Chapter CXXV. there is a dialogue between the Cat and the Ass.