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As the people progressed towards civilization they passed through several phases of culture in the arts and sciences, which may be studied in the remains of those periods, and the religious ideas, and opinions kept pace with their material and intellectual advancement, and in the age that was ruled over by the famous nineteenth dynasty of Pharaohs, the nation reached its culmination, and at that time had developed its system of worship of deified human beings, now called anthropomorphism.
Before this wonderful worship had been perfected, there had been practised the rites of the Sabians, a worship of the heavenly bodies similar to that of the Persians and Chaldeans; and still more anciently there are evidences of the practice of the dark rites of Fetichism.
The mythology of the Egyptians is so full of names of gods and demons, that it would require a large space to describe them, and the data is also imperfect, as the Egyptian priests invented a system of secret writing called hieroglyphic (sacred writing) on purpose to conceal their knowledge from all but the iniated. But within the last half century these hieroglyphics have been so far deciphered as to afford us a fair knowledge of their esoteric teachings, rites, and ceremonies.
KNEPH is the great creator, appearing under the symbol of a man with a ram's head and horns, always seated when in the act of creating.
The central myth was that of OSIRIS and ISIS, the sun and moon, and of HERMES, and contains the ideas and notions concerning the three most important deities.
Osiris was worshiped under the form of an ox, and was the god of the sun, and the source of life and fertility, and all fruitfulness. He taught man the use of tools in agriculture, and was greatly beloved in return. His envious brother Typhon (the night, as Osiris was the day), conspired to kill and destroy him, and would have succeeded but for Isis who contended for Osiris, and gathered the fragments of the slain body.
Osiris, after making the people of the Nile valley rich and happy, visited the rest of the world with his blessings, chiefly agriculture, and the arts, music and eloquence.
ANUBIS is the dog-headed divinity, who was wise and good, and assisted Isis in the contention between Osiris and Typhon. The story of this contest is the probable foundation on which that of Moses and the ark of reeds was made.
HORUS was a son of Osiris and Isis, and was also a god of the sun, and equal to the Greek Apollo. He is often represented as a child seated on a lotus flower, with his finger on his lip, and from this is called the god of silence.
The ox was called Apis, and was always a black one, with a triangular spot on the forehead, and another on his right side, crescent-shaped. He was kept in a stall facing the east, and fed chiefly on milk. On the death of the favored animal another was inmediately installed in the sacred temple, and saluted as the god, beginning at Nilopolis, and finally ending at Memphis, where sacrifices were made at his shrine. An ancient historian (Marcellinus) says, " during this
festival of the annual installation of the Apis, the crocodiles forgot their ferocity, became gentle, and harmed nobody." No sacred bull was allowed to live longer than twenty-five years, and if alive after that period he was drowned.
The AMUN of the Egyptians was called Jupiter Ammon by the Romans, and Zeus by the Greeks, and was the highest of all the divinities, and was represented under the symbol of the ram, with the disc of the sun on his head. He was also a god of the sun, whose name in Coptic is Ram.
ATHOR is the mother of the material world, the Egyptian Venus, and is usually seen with the dove, which was sacred to her.
PHTHA was the god of fire and life, as Prometheus was to the Greeks. From him were descended MENDES and NEITH, the last of the first order of the gods.
To each of these twelve great deities there was one of the twelve signs of the Zodiac assigned.
The second order consists of twelve also, the sun, moon, and planets, and also some of the principles of
The third, of seven deities.
The starry heavens were divided into two sections, said to be ruled by a god of light and purity, and the other by a demon of darkness and evil.
There were six orders of demons, ruling over or influencing, according to the permission of the great gods, all other living things.
Every planet, star and object, animate or inanimate, had its own peculiar guardian spirit or tutelary genius,
and this was the origin and use of their sytem of ASTROLOGY. The Egyptians believed that the souls of men had once been alive on the earth in animals or men, and would return again after a term of years of great duration-ten thousand years or
The belief of the Egyptians as to the creation of mankind was, that after the several orders of gods and demons were created man was devised, and woman was the first made, and that there were many thousands of souls created in the image of Osiris, which were divided into sixty classes. These have procreated their descendants, filling the world, being animated by the breath of the creator.
Another myth says that these creations of gods, demons, and man were made in the heavens, and that the habitation of the earth was an after-thought, and that Hermes gave man the soil for a covering, thus forming the body over what had been created in the soul, and man became a living being in a mortal body in the earth.
Mankind having fallen into sin by breaking the laws of the creator, the great host of diseases followed him like a swarm of flies, destroying his peace and happiness, and his very life, when Osiris and Isis were sent by the creator to the earth to be born as man and woman, and redeem the fallen race. They appeared in Egypt, the chosen land of the gods above all others.
According to this belief, each soul while in the body is attended by a guardian angel, and is given a choice whether to stay in heaven, or visit the earth
and live in a body. If the choice is for a life on earth, it traverses the Zodiac until it reaches the sign of the Lion, the gate of corporeal existence. The period of 3,000 years is passed before the soul finds an exit from earth in the sign Arics, where after a probation of three days it enters once more the regions of bliss.
These myths were the symbolic language in which the priests hid the real truth, which was carefully kept within the sacred circle of the initiated. The rites and ceremonies were enforced on all citizens without exception, from the king down to the lowest subject, and foreigners were permitted to join on certain conditions. This external religion was the basis of the priestly and kingly authority, but the creed, belief, and practise of the initiated order of priests, were very different and much more elevated.
The use of animals and reptiles as symbols of divine things was probably a relic of some older system of nature worship or fetichisın. Various symbols were used for the same duty when considered under different characters, as the creator, preserver, destroyer, fruitful, and others. Osiris is at one time represented as a boy with a hawk's head sitting on a cow; at another, with a lion's head, and a third, with a bull's head bearing a crescent above the horns. This lion-head is the symbol of the god of the Nile. He is also clothed in a long garment and holds a staff, and a corn measure on his head. As god of Tartarus he has the Serapis serpent, and as such is the healing demon, the Esculapius of the Greeks. As god of