chapter  III
26 Pages

The "Gods" of the Egyptians

The gods of provinces or of great cities were, of course, greater than those of villages and private families, and in the large houses dedicated to theIn, i.e., temples, a considerable number of them, represented by statues, would be found. Sometimes the attributes of one god would be ascribed to another, sometimes t,vo or more gods would be "fused" or united and form one, sometimes gods were imported from remote villages and towns and even from foreign countries, and occasionally a community or town would repudiate its god or gods l and adopt a brand new set from some

god will suffice, namely Thoth, whose original emblem was the dog-headed ape. In very early times great respect was paid to this animal on account of his sagacity, intelligence, and cunning; and the simpleminded Egyptian, when he heard him chattering just before the sunrise and sunset, assumed that he was in some way holding converse or was intilnately connected with the sun. This idea clung to his mind, and ,ve find in dynastic times, in the vignette representing the rising sun, that the apes, who are said to be the transformed openers of the portals of heaven, fornl a veritable company of the gods, and at the same time one of the most striking features of the scene. Thus an idea which came into being in the most remote times passed on from generation to generation until it became crystallized in the best copies of the Book of the Dead, at a period when Egypt was at its zenith of power and glory. The peculiar species of the dog-headed ape which is represented in statues and on papyri is fan10us for its cunning, and it was the words which it supplied to Thoth, who in turn transmitted them to Osiris, that enabled Osiris to be "true of voice," or triumphant, over his enemies. It is probably in this capacity, i.e., as the friend of the dead, that the dog-headed ape appears seated upon the top of the standard of the Balance in which the heart of the deceased is being weighed against the feather symbolic of J\faat; for the cornmonest titles

of the god are " lord of divine books," "lord of divine words," i.e., the formulre which make the deceased to be obeyed by friend and foe alike in the next world. In later times, when Thoth came to be represented by the ibis bird, his attributes were multiplied, and he became the god of letters, science, mathematics, etc.; at the creation he seems to have played a part not unlike that of "wisdonl" which is so beautifully described by the writer of Proverbs (see Chap. VIII. vv. 23-31).