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The Origin and Significance of the Great Pyramid, by C. Staniland Wake, [1882], at

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THE association of the name of the god Seth with the Great Pyramid—a structure which appears to embody or to bear a relation to the chief scientific truths recognised by the ancient world, throws light on certain ideas entertained as to the nature of that deity. The god of intelligence of the Egyptians was Thoth, the Hermes of the Sabæans. Hermes was, however, called the son of Seth, and this deity is in some sense to be identified with Thoth. In a passage of the Book of the Dead, the former has the name Tet which, according to Bunsen, intimates that Thoth inherited many of the attributes of Seth. * It may, indeed, show that they are the same deity. Seth was the true god of Wisdom, and the pillars of Seth, on which, according to Josephus,  was inscribed the astronomical knowledge of the

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ancient world, were the same as those mentioned in an apocryphal work ascribed to Hermes, which, according to Cedrenus, affirmed that "Enoch, foreseeing the destruction of the Earth, had inscribed the science of astronomy upon two pillars." * By these structures was probably intended the two great pyramids of Ghizeh, which appear originally to have had many inscriptions on their external coverings. Makrizi cites various authors as to the origin of the Pyramids, and among other statements it was said that that they were built by Surid, and that the First was dedicated to history and astronomy, and the Second to medical knowledge.  As Seth, Thoth, or Hermes was the god of Wisdom, so the serpent was its emblem, and especially connected with that God and with other deities of similar characteristics. "Wise as serpents.  and harmless as doves," is an old saying, which probably has a deeper meaning than that usually ascribed to it. The connection between the serpent and the idea

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of wisdom is well seen in the Hindu legend as to the Nagas. Mr. Fergusson remarks, "the Naga appears everywhere in Vaishnava tradition. There is no more common representation of Vishnu than as reposing on the Sesha, the celestial seven-headed snake, contemplating the creation of the world." The Upanishads refer to the science of serpents, by which is meant the wisdom of the mysterious Nagas who, according to Buddhistic legend, reside under Mount Meru, and in the waters of the terrestrial world. One of the sacred books of the Tibetan Buddhists is fabled to have been received from the Nagas, who, says Schlagentweit, are "fabulous creatures, of the nature of serpents, who occupy a place among the beings superior to man, and are regarded as protectors of the law of the Buddha. To these spiritual beings Sakyamuni is said to have taught a more philosophical religious system than to men, who were not sufficiently advanced to understand it at the time of his appearance." The serpent holds an analogous place in the religious ideas of the modern Hindus. Siva, * as Sambhu, is the patron of the Brahmanic

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order, and, as shown by his being three-eyed, is essentially a god possessing high intellectual attributes. Vishnu also is a god of wisdom, but (notwithstanding the association with him of the Sesha), of a somewhat lower type, such as is distinctive of the worshippers of truth under its feminine aspect. The serpent has been connected with the god of Wisdom from the earliest times of which we have any historical notice. This animal was the especial symbol of Thoth or Taut, a primeval deity of Syro-Egyptian mythology, and of all those gods, such as Hermes and Seth, who can be connected with him. This is true also of the third member of the primitive Chaldean triad, Héa or Hoa. According to Sir Henry Rawlinson, the most important titles of this deity refer to "his functions as the source of all knowledge and science." Not only is he "the intelligent fish," but his name may be read as signifying both "life" and a "serpent," and he may be considered as "figured by the great serpent which occupies so conspicuous a place among the symbols of the gods on the black stones recording Babylonian benefactions." M. Lenormant identifies Héa with the fish-god Oannes of Babylonian mythology, who, according to

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[paragraph continues] Berosus, "spent the whole day amongst men without taking any food, while he taught them letters, science, and the principles of every art, the rules for the foundation of towns, the building of temples, the measurement and boundaries of lands, seed-time and harvest, in short, all that could advance civilization, so that nothing new has been invented since that period." * Héa, as the god of Science, was the defender of "the frame of nature against the incessant ravages of the wicked spirits," and "help was sought from him when neither word, rite, talisman, nor even the intervention of any other of the gods had availed to destroy the demons’ power."  The Chaldean god was moreover, the healer of disease,  in which character he resembled the God of the Hebrews, the sight of whose serpent-symbol was supposed to cure those bitten by the fiery serpents in the wilderness. There is reason to believe § that this deity was the same as Seth, the Agathodæmon of the early Egyptians, who was represented under the form of the serpent,

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and who was the giver of happiness and good fortune. * The good genius which presided over the affairs of men as the guardian spirit of their houses was a serpent, the Asp of Ranno, the snake-headed goddess who is represented as nursing the young princes. That the idea of health was among the Egyptians intimately associated with the serpent, is shown, moreover, by the crown formed of the asp, or sacred Thermuthis, having been given particularly to Isis, a goddess of Life and Healing. It was also the symbol of other gods of health and the like attributes, as stated by the learned Dupuis in the chapters entitled "Esculapius, Serapis, Pluto, Esmun, Cneph, and all the divinities with the attributes of the serpent"  is remarkable that a Moslem saint of Upper Egypt is still thought to appear under the form of a serpent, and to cure the diseases which afflict the pilgrims to his shrine. The power of healing is an evidence of the possession of wisdom, and so also

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is the power of influencing atmospheric changes. This is a most important attribute, and, as Mr. Fergusson points out, a chief characteristic of the serpents throughout the East in all ages seems to have been their power over the wind and rain. According to Colonel Meadows Taylor, in the Indian Deccan, at the present day, offerings are made to the village divinities (of whom the nag, or snake, is always one) at spring time and harvest for rain or fine weather, and also in time of cholera or other diseases or pestilence. So, among the Chinese, the dragon is regarded. as the giver of rain, and in time of drought offerings are made to it. In the spring and fall, of the year it is one of the objects worshipped, by command of the Emperor, by certain mandarins. The Chinese notion of the serpent or dragon dwelling above the clouds in spring to give rain reminds us of the Aryan myth of Vritra, or Ahi, the throttling snake, or dragon with three heads, who hides away the rain-clouds, but who is slain by Indra, the beneficent giver of rain. M. Bréal says, * that "Typhon is the monster who obscures the heavens, a sort of Greek Vritra." The myth of Indra and Vritra is reproduced in

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[paragraph continues] Latin mythology as that of Hercules and Cacus. Cacus also is analogous to Typhon, and as the former is supposed to have taken his name from, or given it to, a certain wind which had the power of clothing itself with clouds, so the latter bore the same name as a very destructive wind which was much dreaded by the Phoenicians and Egyptians. Moreover, the name Typhon was given by the Egyptians to anything tempestuous and hence to the Ocean.

We have here a reference to the serpent as the embodiment of the Evil Being; and in the later identification of Seth with Typhon, the enemy of Osiris, we have evidence of the connection of the serpent with the former deity. M. Lenormant tells us that, "evil was personified in a particular god, Set or Soutekh, * called also sometimes Baal, who was the supreme god of the neighbouring Asiatic populations, and, at a later period, of the shepherd kings; the Greeks considered him the same as their Typhon, and it was said that Osiris had succumbed to his blows." 

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[paragraph continues] The name Typhon appears to have been given more especially to the Evil Being, as the opponent of Horus, who was, however, the same deity as Osiris, whose son he was said to be. The former was then represented as Apap or Apophis, or the giant serpent, who was pierced by the spear of Horus, as the serpent Pytho was slain by Apollo. * Henceforth Seth, instead of being regarded by the Egyptians as the Agathodæmon, was looked upon as the principle of evil. The same change took place among the Accadian population of Media. M. Lenormant states that the "worship of serpent-gods is found amongst many of the Turanian tribes. The Accadians made the serpent one of the principal attributes, and one of the forms of Héa." When once, however, "the Iranian traditions were fused with the ancient beliefs of the Proto-Medic religion, the serpent-god naturally became identified with the representative of the dark and bad principle, for, according to the Mazdean myths, the serpent was the form assumed by

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[paragraph continues] Angromainyus, in order to penetrate into the heaven of Ahuramazda." * Here is the conflict between light and darkness, and between life and death, which is reproduced in Egyptian mythology, where the evil principle is represented in the one case by the serpent Apap, and in the other by Set  (Seth), whose symbol was the serpent.

The association between the serpent and the idea of darkness had an astronomical foundation. The position which the constellation Draco at one time occupied showed that the Great Serpent was the ruler of the night. This constellation was formerly at the very centre of the heavens, and it is so extensive, that it was called the Great Dragon. Its body spreads over seven signs of the Zodiac, and Dupuis, who sees in the Dragon of the Apocalypse a reference to the celestial serpent, says, "It is not astonishing that a constellation so extended should be represented by the author of that book as a great dragon with seven heads, who drew the third part of the stars from heaven and cast them to the earth." 

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[paragraph continues] Moreover, when the constellation Draco occupied its elevated position, it supplied the polestar of the heavens. The importance of this fact, in connection with the erection of the Great Pyramid, will be understood after what has been said as to the association of the Pyramid with the god Seth. That structure was erected, not only as a tomb for its founder, but as a monumental temple in honour of a deity whose special symbol was the serpent, the emblem of wisdom with the primitive race whose religion would appear to have been a combination of serpent-worship and Sabaism. The Great Pyramid is thus a monument not only of Sabaism, but of serpent-worship, and, as such, its scientific as well as its astronomical character receives the proper explanation. The builders of such a temple would apply their utmost skill in its construction and they would seek to preserve in it, as far as possible, the scientific knowledge which they had derived from their ancestors.

According to a Coptic MS., upon the walls of the Pyramids were written the mysteries of science, astronomy, geometry, physic, and much useful knowledge. The same MS. states, that they were built before the Flood by Surid, for

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safety, and as tombs for himself and household. * It is remarkable that, as Sir Gardner Wilkinson points out, Tuphán, which appears to be the same word as Typhon, the name of the Evil Being, is the Arabic name of the Deluge.  The association of the Pyramids with a flood has, however, a purely astronomical explanation. Mr. Proctor, when speaking of the position of the pole-star Alpha Draconis, at the date of the erection of the Great Pyramid, says,  "We know that in the past the constellation of the Dragon was at the pole, or boss, of the celestial sphere. In stellar temples, like those of which Rawlinson gives examples, the Dragon would be the uppermost or ruling constellation. And here, in passing, it may interest the reader to note that, some find evidence in this relation that when writers of old spoke of the Old Dragon as having been cast from heaven, carrying two-thirds of the celestial beings with him, reference was made—unconsciously, perhaps, on the narrator's part

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[paragraph continues] —to some tradition of the passing away or fall of the Dragon from its former ruling position among the constellations. Those who thus interpret ancient records (much more ancient than Jewish history), find in Hercules, with his heel assailed by the serpent, as in our constellation figures, the first Adam; in Ophinchus, the serpent holder, the second Adam. In Argo they find the Ark—in fact, in a whole series of constellations they find the story of the Flood. In Aquarius, with the streams pouring from his water-jug, they find the beginning of the Flood. In the river Eridanus and the seas in which Pisces and the great sea-monster Cetus seem to swim, they see pictured the prevalence of deep water over the whole earth. The Raven of the Heavens is the raven of the Flood-narrative. Argo is the Ark, shown as if only the stern-half of a great ship lodged in the mountain. The Centaur, bearing sacrifice, as Aratus says, to Ara, the altar, is Noah offering sacrifice after he had left the Ark; and the bow of Sagittarius in the smoke (the Milky-way), which seems to ascend from the altar, is the bow of promise. These may, of course, be only fancies, but it is singular how closely these constellations, which are among

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the few really seeming to picture recognisable objects in the heavens, correspond in sequence and in range of right ascension with the events recorded respecting the Flood." *

Fancies or not, it is unquestionable that the Deluge has been associated in the legends of some Eastern peoples, not only with the Pyramids,  but also with the constellations. Thus it is with the Chaldean legend, according to which Saturn in a dream announced the coming catastrophe to Xixutrus, who, like Noah, escaped in an ark. The Assyrian tablets discovered by the late Dr. Smith, and which contain what is called the Nimrod Epic, have preserved a similar account of the Deluge. It is now established that the twelve cantos of that Epic "refer to the annual course of the sun through the twelve months of the year. Each tablet answers to a special month, and contains a distinct reference to the animal forms in the signs of the Zodiac." Thus, "the Deluge forms the subject of the eleventh canto, corresponding

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with the month of Skebat (Feb.-Jan.), which is consecrated to Rimmon, the god of storms and rain, and harmonises with the eleventh sign of the Zodiac—Aquarius, or the Waterman. The latter month is styled in Sumerish-Accadian 'the month of the curse of the rain,' or, as we might almost say, the Deluge month." * The ancient Babylonians are usually accredited with the invention of the worship of the heavenly bodies, and the existence among them of the deluge myth in connection with the constellations is an important fact. It is no less important in relation to the question of the object of the Great Pyramid, that the capital of Babylonia contained a structure described by Strabo as a pyramid dedicated to the worship of the planetary bodies, exceeding in size the great Egyptian monument itself, and much resembling the Egyptian Pyramid of Degrees at Sakkarah. The Babylonian Tower was at the base a square of 600 feet, and consisted of eight towers, each 75 feet high, one above the other, making a total height of 600 feet. M. Lenormant speaks of the erection of this temple as having been attributed

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to "the most ancient king, the first king," and he says it was "the tangible expression, the material and architectural manifestation, of the Chaldaic-Babylonian religion. Serving both as a sanctuary and as an observatory for the stars, it agreed admirably with the genius of the essentially siderial religion to which it was united by an indissoluble bond" *—language which might be used with exactly the same propriety of the Great Pyramid itself.

That the erection of the Great Pyramid had some connection with the constellations is not at all improbable. We have already seen that Mr. Proctor prefers the date 3350 B.C. to the later one of 2170 B.C. for the building of the pyramid. The latter date would seem, however, to be the more probable one. That it was erected during the reign of Cheops  is almost universally admitted; and, although the time when he reigned has not been satisfactorily established, there are grounds for believing it to have been about 2200 B.C. Prof. C. Piazzi Smyth affirms that

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[paragraph continues] "the only monumental conclusion formed by comparing the quarry marks of the Great Pyramid with whatever is to be trusted, or is tolerably agreed upon among Egyptologists, and both of them with an astronomical date of the buildings,—can be no other than that two of the kings of the Fourth Dynasty of Egyptian history—Shofo and Nu-Shofo by name—lived through a period including the epoch of 2170 B.C." * It is true that, as Prof. Smyth points out, this date differs from that fixed by nearly all modern Egyptologists,  although it agrees very nearly with the date 2228 B.C., assigned for the commencement of the Fourth Dynasty by Mr. Wm. Osburn, the author of the "Monumental History of Egypt." It is consistent, moreover, with the chronological facts given by Dr. Birch. This Egyptologist gives 3000 B.C. for the commencement of the first dynasty; and if this Dynasty continued for 263 years, the Second Dynasty for 306 years, and the Third Dynasty for 214 years, as stated by Manetho, we have 2223 B.C. as the date of

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the commencement of the Fourth Dynasty, and therefore of the erection of the Great Pyramid, if Cheops was its builder. Curiously enough, however, this is about the date fixed for the origin of the constellations. Mr. Proctor states that between 2100 and 2200 years before the Christian era the southern constellations had their original position, the invisible southern pole then lying at the centre of the space free from constellations. He adds, "It is noteworthy that for other reasons this period, or rather a definite epoch within it, is indicated as that to which must be referred the beginning of exact astronomy. Amongst others must be mentioned this—that in the year 2170 B.C. quam proxime, the Pleiades rose to their highest above the horizon at noon (or technically made their noon culmination) at the spring equinox. We can readily understand that to minds possessed with full faith in the influence of the stars on the earth, this fact would have great significance." At that epoch the southernmost constellations would be seen in their natural position—standing upright when above the southern horizon at midnight. On those grounds, Mr. Proctor affirms that the period when the old southern constellations

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were formed must have been between 2400 and 2000 years before the Christian era, He deems it highly probable, moreover, that the year 2170 B.C. may be regarded as the date, not of the beginning of astronomy, but of the introduction of a new astronomical system, the substitution of the use of the twelve zodiacal signs for that of the twenty-eight lunar mansions. Assuming that conclusion to be correct, we have a most remarkable coincidence between the date of the invention of the Zodiac and that of the erection of the Great Pyramid. If it is true, however, as Dupuis supposed, that the Egyptians invented the constellations, the agreement between those dates was probably more than a coincidence. The French writer remarks, "The figures traced in the Zodiac and in the other constellations have not been placed there haphazard: they are the hieroglyphic calendar of the ancient peoples; they are connected with their wants and their climate; and they all have a meaning in their origin, although it may be difficult for us now to discover the sense of all the symbols." Dupuis shows what was the primitive position of the constellations, considered as the astronomical and rural calendar of

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a people both intellectual and agricultural, and he affirms that it accords perfectly with the agriculture of Egypt, and at the same time with the position of the solstitial and equinoctial points in the heavens at a certain epoch. Moreover, owing to the difference in the order of agricultural operations followed in Egypt from that in other climates, the rural calendar which fitted the Egyptians could not suit any other people, and therefore he ascribes to them the honour of having invented the astronomical sciences; a conclusion supported, it is said, by the fact that the Egyptians regarded their Zodiac, not only as a rural and meteorological calendar, but as the base of all their religion and of their astronomy. * M. Flammarion appears to doubt whether Dupuis has satisfactorily established his theory of the origin of the constellations,  and the date fixed by Mr. Proctor for the formation of the Zodiac is hardly consistent with that theory. It is possible, however, that whilst the constellations were formed by the Chaldeans long before that date, the zodiacal signs were only then arranged

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in an order to accord with the climate of Egypt by settlers in this country. Mr. Proctor, after fixing the probable limits of the place where the constellations were formed, at from 35 to 39 degrees north of the equator, says, "The Great Pyramid, as we know, is about 30 degrees north of the Equator; but we also know that its architects travelled southwards to find a suitable place for it. One of their objects may have been to obtain a fuller view of the star-sphere south of their constellations." * This suggestion is a very important one, for it assumes that the constellations were formed before the erection of the Pyramid, and therefore that the date of the latter event cannot have been earlier than that of the former. Mr. Proctor goes further, however, and even suggests that one of the objects which the architects of the Great Pyramid may have had was "the erection of a building indicating the epoch when the new system was entered upon, and defining in its proportions, its interior passages, and other features, fundamental elements of the new system." The construction of that building implies considerable proficiency in astronomical observation,

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and hence, says Mr. Proctor, "the year 2170 B.C. may very well be regarded as defining the introduction of a new system of astronomy, but certainly not the beginning of astronomy itself. *" That year becomes, however, the date of the pyramid itself, and in the suggestion that it was intended to commemorate the substitution of the twelve zodiacal signs for the twenty-eight lunar mansions, we have a strong confirmation of the opinion expressed in these pages that the Great Pyramid was a monument of Sabaism, and that it was erected in honour of Seth, the Agathodæmon of the ancient world, and consecrated to his worship.


70:* "Egypt," Vol. iii. p. 427.

70:† "Antiquities," Chap. ii. sec. iii.

71:* Vyse, "Operations, etc.," vol. ii. p. 330 n.

71:† Ditto, p. 354. See Appendix II. for Masoudi's account of the Legend of Surid.

71:‡ The Sophia, or Divine Wisdom and the Ophis-Christos of the Gnostics, was represented under the form of a serpent.—Matter's "Histoire Critique du Gnosticisme," Planches II. A. B. c. Matter appears to identify the Ophis with the god Kneph, p. 32.

72:* Siva would seem to be the same deity as Saturn, and possibly therefore as Set (Seth), a fact which confirms the serpent character of the last named deity.

74:* Lenormant "Chaldean Magic and Sorcery" (Eng. trans.), p. 157.

74:† Ditto, p. 158.

74:‡ Ditto, p. 21.

74:§ See the "Journal of Anthropology," 1870, p. 209, on this point.

75:* Wilkinson's "Ancient Egyptians," Vol. iv. p. 413. Mr. Lane states that each quarter of Cairo (which was built out of the ruins of Memphis and its tombs), is supposed to have its guardian genius or agathodæmon, in the form of a serpent.—"Manners and Customs of the Egyptians," Vol. i. p. 289.

75:† "Origine de tous les Cultes," Tom. ii. Part 1, p. 165.

76:* "Mélanges de Mythologie et de Linguistique," p. 95.

77:* The earlier character of this deity is well shown by the remark of Tiele, that the name Sutech is an attempt to reproduce in Egyptian form the Semitic divine name, Sedeq, "the righteous."—"Outlines of the History of Religion," p. 55.

77:† "Chaldean Magic," p. 83.

78:* "Chaldean Magic," p. 83; Wilkinson, Vol. iv. pp. 395, 435—Apophis, may have given name to Papi, and Egyptian king, who lived about a century after Cheops, and also to Apepi, or Apappos one of the Hyksos kings; unless the 'Giant' Serpent took this title from the former monarch.

79:* "Chaldean Magic," p. 232.

79:† Tiele, "Outlines of the History of Religions," p. 47; also, "History of the Egyptian Religion," Vol. i. p. 72.

79:‡ Dupuis, Tom. iii. p. 255.

81:* Vyse, "Operations," etc., Vol. ii. p. 330, and see Appendix II.

81:† "The Ancient Egyptians," Vol. iv. p. 427 n.

81:‡ Knowledge, Vol. i. p. 243.

83:* Knowledge, Vol. i. p. 243—Dupuis explains fully the position of the heavens at the date of what he terms the "sacred fiction" of the Deluge, Tom. iii. p. 176, seq.

83:† See Appendix II. for the Arabian legend as to the connection between the Deluge and the building of the Pyramids.

84:* "The Nineteenth Century," 1382, p. 236.

85:* "Chaldean Magic," p. 322.

85:† If Soris was the first monarch of the Fourth Dynasty, the Great Pyramid may possibly have been commenced in his reign, and completed during that of Cheops.

86:* "Life and Work at the Great Pyramid," Vol. iii. p. 338.

86:† M. Vivien de Saint-Martin gives 3893 B.C. as the best date for the epoch of Menes.—"Nouveau Dict. de Geographie Universelle," Art. Egypte.

89:* "Origine de tous les Cultes," Tom. iii. p. 339.

89:† "Histoire du Ciel," p. 153.

90:* "Myths," etc., p. 362.

91:* Ditto, p. 360.

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