Thrice-Greatest Hermes, Vol. 1, by G.R.S. Mead, , at sacred-texts.com
LXV. 1. And we shall also get our hands on the dull crowd who take pleasure in associating the [mystic recitals] about these Gods either with changes of the atmosphere according to the seasons, or with the generation of the corn and sowings and ploughings, and in saying that Osiris is buried when the sown corn is hidden by the earth, and comes to life and shows himself again when it begins to sprout.
2. For which cause also [they declare] that Isis, on feeling she is pregnant, ties an amulet round her [neck] on the sixth day of the first half of the month Phaōphi; 2 and that Harpocrates is brought forth about the winter solstice imperfect and infant in the things that sprout too early. 3
3. For which cause they offer him first-fruits of growing lentils, and they keep the days of thanks for safe delivery after the spring equinox.
4. For they love to hear these things and believe them, drawing conviction from things immediately at hand and customary.
LXVI. 1. Still there is nothing to complain of if
[only], in the first place, they cherish the Gods in common with ourselves, and do not make them peculiar to Egyptians, either by characterising Nile and only the land that Nile waters by these names, or, by saying that marshes and lotuses and god-making [are their monopoly], deprive the rest of mankind who have no Nile or Butō or Memphis, of [the] Great Gods.
2. Indeed, all [men] have Isis and know her and the Gods of her company; for though they learned not long ago to call some of them by names known among the Egyptians, still they knew and honoured the power of each [of them] from the beginning.
3. In the second place, and what is more important—they should take very good heed and be apprehensive lest unwittingly they write-off the sacred mysteries and dissolve them into winds and streams, and sowing and ploughings, and passions of earth and changes of seasons.
4. As those who [say] that Dionysus is wine and Hephæstus flame, and Persephone, as Cleanthes says somewhere, the wind that drives through the crops and is killed; and [as] some poet says of the reapers:
Then when they, lusty, cut Demeters limbs. 1
5. For these in nothing differ from those who regard a pilot as sails and ropes and anchor, and a weaver as yarns and threads, and a physician as potions and honey-brew and barley-water; nay, they put into mens minds dangerous and atheistic notions, by transferring names of Gods to natures and to things that have no sense or soul, and which are necessarily destroyed by men according to their need and use. For it is not possible to consider such things in themselves as Gods.
LXVII. 1. For a God is not a thing without a mind or soul, or one made subject to the hand of man; but it
is from these things that we deduce that those who bestow them on us for our use and offer them [to us] in perpetual abundance, are Gods.
2. Not different [Gods] for different peoples, not non-Greek and Greek, not southern and northern [Gods]; but just as sun and moon and earth and sea [are] common to all [men], though they are called by different names by different peoples, so of the Reason (Logos) that orders all things, and of one Providence that also directs powers ordained to serve under her for all [purposes], have different honours and titles been made according to their laws by different [nations].
3. And there are consecrated symbols, some obscure ones and others more plain, guiding the intelligence towards the mysteries of the Gods, [though] not without risk.
4. For some going entirely astray have stepped into superstitions, while others, shunning superstition as a quagmire, have unwittingly fallen into atheism 1 as down a precipice.
LXVIII. 1. Wherefore especially with regard to such things, should we, taking with us Reason (Logos) as our mystic guide out of philosophy, reverently meditate upon each of the things said and done; in order that, [we may avoid what] Theodorus said, [namely] that when he offered his words with his right hand some of his hearers took them with their left,—and so not miss the mark by taking in another sense what laws on offerings and feasts have well ordained.
2. For that all [these things] must be referred to the Reason (Logos), we may learn from themselves also.
For on the nineteenth of the first month, 2 when they
keep a feast to Hermes, they eat honey and figs, saying when so doing, “Truth is sweet.” And the amulet of Isis which the myth says she put round her [neck] 1 is, when interpreted, “True Voice.”
3. And we should not consider Harpocrates either as an imperfect or infant god, or a [god] of pulse, 2 but as protector and chastener of the babyish and imperfect and inarticulate reason that men have about Gods. For which cause he has his finger laid upon his lips as a symbol of reticence and silence.
4. And in the month of Mesorē 3 when they make offerings of pulse, they say: “Tongue [is] fortune; tongue is daimon.”
5. And they say that of the trees in Egypt the persea especially has been made sacred to the Goddess, because its fruit resembles a heart and its leaf a tongue.
6. For of all mans natural possessions nothing is more godlike than logos [word or reason], and especially that concerning the Gods, nor is there anything that decides more weightily for happiness.
7. Wherefore we commend him who goes down to consult the Oracle here 4 to think religiously and speak reverently. But the many act ridiculously when, after they have in the processions and feasts made proclamation to speak reverently, they subsequently speak and think the most irreverent things about the Gods themselves.
LXIX. 1. What use, then, must one make of those melancholy and laughterless and mournful sacrifices, if it is not right either to omit the rites of custom, or to confound our views about Gods and throw them into confusion with absurd suspicions?
2. Yea, among Greeks, too, many things are done, just about the same time also, similar to those which Egyptians perform in the sacred [rites].
3. For instance, at Athens, the women fast at the Thesmophoria, sitting on the ground. While Bœotians move the palace of Achæa, 1 giving that festival the name of Epachthē [the Grief-bringing], as though Demeter were in grief (ἄχθει) on account of the Descent 2 of Korē.
4. And this month is the one for sowing when the Pleiades rise, which Egyptians call Athyr, 3 Greeks Pyanepsiōn, and Bœotians Damatrios. 4
5. Moreover, Theopompus 5 tells us that the Western peoples 6 consider and name the winter Kronos, the summer Aphrodite, and the spring Persephone; and [say] that all things are born from Kronos and Aphrodite.
6. While the Phrygians, thinking that the God sleeps in winter, and wakes in summer, celebrate in his honour the Orgies of his “Going to sleep” at one time, and at another of his “Waking up”; while the Paphlagonians pretend that he is bound hand and foot and imprisoned in winter, and in spring is set in motion and freed from his bonds.
LXX. 1. And the season of the year suggests that the appearance of mourning is assumed at the hiding away of grains [in the earth],—which the ancients did not
consider gods, but gifts of the Gods, indispensable [indeed] if we are to live otherwise then savagely and like the brutes.
2. And at the season when, you know, these [ancients] saw the [fruits] entirely disappearing from the trees and ceasing, and those they had sown themselves still scanty and poor,—in scraping away the earth with their hands, and pressing it together again, and depositing [the seed] in uncertainty as to whether it would come up again and have its proper consummation, they used to do many things similar to those who bury and mourn.
3. Then, just as we say that one who buys Platos books “buys Plato,” and that one who presents the creations of Menander “acts Menander,” so did they not hesitate to call the gifts and creations of the Gods by the names of the Gods—honouring them and reverencing them by use.
4. But those [who came] after, receiving [these names] like boors and ignorantly misapplying what happens 1 to the fruits to the Gods [themselves], and not merely calling but believing the advent and hiding away of the necessaries [of life] generations and destructions of gods, filled their heads with absurd, indecent, and confused opinions, although they had the absurdity of their unreason before their eyes.
5. Excellent, however, was the view of Xenophanes 2 of Colophon that Egyptians dont mourn if they believe in Gods and dont believe in Gods if they mourn; nay, that it would be ridiculous for them in the same breath to mourn and pray for the seed to appear again, in order that it might again be consumed and mourned for.
LXXI. 1. But such is not really the case; but, while mourning for the grain, they pray the Gods, the authors and givers [of it], to renew it again and make other grow up in the place of that which is consumed.
2. Whence there is an excellent saying among the philosophers, that those who do not learn how to hear names rightly, use things wrongly. Just as those of the Greeks who have not learned or accustomed themselves to call bronzes and pictures and marbles images in honour of the Gods, but [call them] Gods, [and] then make bold to say that Lacharēs stripped Athena, and Dionysius cut off Apollos golden curls, and that Capitoline Zeus was burnt and perished in the Civil Wars,—these without knowing it find themselves drawn into adopting mischievous opinions following [directly] on the [abuse of] names.
3. And this is especially the case of Egyptians with regard to the honours they pay to animals. For in this respect, at any rate, Greeks speak rightly when they consider the dove as the sacred creature of Aphrodite, and the dragon of Athena, and the raven of Apollo, and the dog of Artemis, as Euripides [sings]:
Thou shalt be dog, pet of torch-bearing Hecate. 1
4. Whereas most of the Egyptians, by the service and cult they pay to the animals themselves as though they were Gods, have not only covered their sacred rites entirely with laughter and ridicule—which is the least evil of their fatuity; but a dangerous way of thinking grows up which perverts the weak and simple to pure superstition, and, in the case of the shrewder and bolder, degenerates into an atheistic and brutal rationalism.
5. Wherefore, also, it is not unfitting to run through the conjectures about these things. 1
346:2 Copt. Paopi—corr. roughly with October.
346:3 Cf. lxviii. 2, 3. Ḥeru-p-Khart, Horus the Younger, or the “Child, so called to distinguish him from Ḥeru-ur, or Horus the Elder. Cf. Budge, op. cit., i. 468 f.
347:1 Cf. Ps. Plut., De Vita Homeri, § 23.
348:1 King again, erroneously in my opinion, refers this to the Christians.
348:2 Copt. Thoth—corr. roughly with September.
349:1 Cf. lxv. 2.
349:2 Cf. ibid., 3.
349:3 Copt. Mesōrē—corr. roughly with August.
349:4 Sc. at Delphi.
350:1 A surname of Demeter, by which she was worshipped at Athens by the Gephyræans who had emigrated thither from Bœotia (Herod., v. 61).
350:2 Sc. into Hades.
350:3 Copt. Hathōr—corr. roughly to November, or rather last half of October and first of November. Cf. also lvi. 10.
350:4 That is, the month of Demeter.
350:5 Müller, i. 328. T. flourished 2nd half of 4th century B.C.
350:6 That is, presumably, the Celts.
351:1 τὰ πάθη—lit., “the passions.”
351:2 X. flourished about end of 6th and beginning of 5th century B.C.
352:1 Nauck, p. 525.
353:1 Dr Budge (op. cit., i. 29) writes: “Such monuments and texts as we have . . . seem to show that the Egyptians first worshipped animals as animals, and nothing more, and later as the habitations of divine spirits and gods; but there is no reason for thinking that the animal worship of the Egyptians was descended from a system of totems and fetishes as Mr J. F. MLennan (Fortnightly Review, 1869-1870) believed.” I believe myself that the Egyptian animal-cult depended chiefly on the fact that life flowed differently in different animal forms, corresponding with the life-currents in the invisible forms or aspects of the Animal-Soul of the Cosmos.