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the Key of the Nile. Amun or Amun-Ra (Jupiter) is seated in token of stability; two tall plumes or rows of feathers surmounting a globe generally decorate his cap, and very frequently there is a serpent or serpents, as indicative of supremacy.
In unravelling the meaning of these significant types, certain gleams of accepted attributes of creation, preservation, and destruction crop out; as in the great triad of the Hindoo, or contemporaneous system of polytheism. The following barred appearance of the tesher, or head-dress, is a more unusual type
The Egyptian pantheon was crowded, for those people associated every mundane benefit with nature and religion ; but through all types and symbols they seem to have recognised an omnipotent and universal Spirit of Providence.
Neph, Knouphis, Knoubis, was a deity of the highest rank, as the name, still used in Arabic, implies. The great gods were Neph, Amun, Phthah, Khem, Saté, Maut, Osiris, Isis, Bubastis, Neith, and others of what an angry critic calls the
“ Demon herd: ” one of these generally formed, in conjunction with two others, a triad, which was tutelary to a particular district. These were distinguished by their costume and attributes. Osiris (Pluto) holds in his right hand a crook, or crosier, and in his left the flagellum, or scourge, indicating the discipline which he exercises over his people. His office was to judge the dead; and, as an attribute of the divine goodness of the Deity, he was clad in pure white only; he wears on his head the cap of Upper Egypt. Phthah (Vulcon) was the demiurge or creative power of the Deity, and therefore leader of the mundane artisans. He is called the “ Lord of Truth” in the Memphitic legend; the scarab was sacred to him as well as to the sun; and he holds the emblems of life and stability, with the staff of purity. Thoth (Mercury), the first Hermes, known in hieroglyphics as Lord of Pautnouphis, patronized the arts and sciences; he was secretary to Osiris, and to him the Egyptians ascribed the invention of letters. Isis wears on her head the well-known disc and horns, as does also her good sister Tsonenofre, who is the second person in the Ombite triad. IIorus (Messiah, Mithras, Apollo), typified the sun in Egypt, Palestine, Persia, and Greece; he has the short dress called shente, his head was bound with the strophium, or fillet, and the hawk was his exclusive emblem. Osiris, Isis, and Horus are very frequently met with as a triad in greenish blue porcelain, alabaster, and sycamore wood,-as are also numerous statuettes of Isis suckling the infant Horus. It was a peculiar duty of IIorus to introduce the souls of the dead into the presence of Osiris, after they had passed the ordeal of their final judgment.
The Ibex religiosa, or Sacred Ibis, a bird of the genus Scolopax, consecrated to Thoth, was revered in every part of Egypt. St. Paul probably alludes to the Ibis, in Romans i. verse 23; and it is among the abominations in Ezekiel's vision. It was peculiar to the Valley of the Nile, strongly regarded by the people in life, and honoured with a public funeral after death. Plutarch—de Iside et Osiride—considered that the Ibis was merely held to be an emblem of the Moon; but, even were this the fact, it must have been very secondary in that light to the cat-faced Bubastis. It was popularly renowned for destroying serpents, scorpions, and locusts; hence Juvenal's “illa pavet saturam serpentibus Ibin :"
Another object or symbol of worship, seen everywhere, is the well-known Scarabæus, or Sacred Beetle, respected as typifying the Anima Mundi, or divine spirit, pervading and cherishing all things. In my Description of Sicily, page 186, I mentioned the mechanical exertions of the scarab in removing loads several times its own bulk; and I have also watched their strength and perseverance in the sands of Barbary and Egypt. They became very conspicuous in the mythology and symbolic language of Mizraim, insomuch that the representations of them seem to have been in universal request. When found on the bodies of mummies they are held to indicate that the deceased was of the sacerdotal order : as on that of Horseisi, in the museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. Myriads of pebbles were cut into the shape of this beetle, and they appear to have been generally worn as talismans; the under surface was often covered with figures engraved in intaglio, whilst many represented the solar, lunar, and astral emblems. Jablonski describes the scarab as the Egyptian symbol of the everlasting and universal soul, and says that its temple is the equinoctial circle—the upper hemisphere; hence it was also styled the despot (Tuparvos) of mid-heaven. In the Hartwell Museum numerous specimens are preserved, of various dimensions, and several distinct methods of sculpture. The wing-cases in most instances are smooth, and in others they are variously striated; still it is difficult even for an entomologist to pronounce on the beetle intended to be represented, since the six hundred species enumerated by Gmelin are chiefly recognizable by their antenna and legs, which are entirely omitted in these figures. They mostly resemble, however, the Stercorarius and the Sacer. As to the Bpouxos of the Septuagint, it is variously rendered.
These mystic stones were prohibited by the Mosaic Law; but in later ages they were said to be made by Solomon, and invested with cabalistic properties, for the use of the Children of Israel. From the far Levant, it seems, they crept into Greece; and when the Romans became prepossessed in favour of Mizraimite idolatry, these amulets multiplied almost to infinity, so that multitudes in Trajan's reign began wearing efligies of the Egyptian gods on their finger-rings. About this time, Basilides, the rampant Tractarian of his day, opened the trenches of Manicheism, by insidiously foisting some of the Gnostic tenets into the doctrines of Christianity; and the talismans, with fantastic additions, were readily made subservient to the self-sufficient philosophy which granted the supreme and all-perfect Deity the aid of Æous, and a host of inferior beings.
Hence originated the misuse of the well-known Abraxas, or Abrasax, a name which some would fain derive from aßços (beautiful), and others from the numeral value of the Greek letters a B pag as, which, being added together, give three hundred and sixty-five. But Salmasius and Basnage maintain that it is a purely Egyptian word; and the conjecture is strengthened by its barbarous cognate, “ Abracadabra ”—the noted ancient phylactery for fevers --being written in the form of a pyramid. It should be noted that the class from whom the Gnostics--so designated from ywwois (knowledge)-claimed their origin, were admired for their talents and virtues; but the follies, heresies, and strange abominations of their followers have since rendered the name everlastingly infamous. Their opinions are supposed to be alluded to by St. Paul, in his Epistles to Timothy and Titus, as the “profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science falsely so called.”
While I was employed in the Gulf of Syrtis, our Consul at Benghazi, Signor Rossoni, procured a Basilidean gem from an Arab, who had found it among the ruins of Grennah (Cyrene). Of this the Consul presented me with an impression in hard wax; and he appears to have also given one to Dr. Della-Cella, who visited the Cyrenaica with the Pasha's army in 1817, on which occasion I met him on the route. Both Rossoni and Della-Cella were agreed in the representation being that of the winged dragon, “guardiano degli Orti Esperidi ;” the site of the celebrated Gardens of the Hesperides being sufficiently near to warm their imaginations. But as this sorely puzzled a Quarterly Reviewer (vol. xxvi. page 225), the matter will bear re-touching. The critic says, -“We must observe, however, that the sculptor had certainly an odd notion of a winged dragon: it appears to us, with reverence be it spoken, more like the marine animal which inhabits the shell well known to school-boys under the name of periwinkle, without its cap; and as to the Greek inscription, which might throw some light upon the subject, we must be content to leave it, with Signor Della-Cella, to the Archæologists.” Now the so-called dragon is, as annexed, a lion's head with solar rays, united to the body of a serpent, a type of the Ophite worship which once so unaccountably and extensively prevailed. In Cyrene, a district comparatively close to Egypt, it may have been considered emblematic of the destroying and preserving attributes of Knouphis, or Noub; but the inscription on the reverse is not so great a puzzle as the Doctor's “ caratteri” makes it to be, for though written “con molti arcaismi,” it is neatly cut. He adds, “e tutto invita gli Archæologi a rivolgere sopra di essa le loro cure.” Such a call was hardly necessary, for it is thus easily made out: