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[§ XXXIX. In the first part of this chapter Plutarch continues his identification of Typhon with drought, and his ally Aso, Queen of Ethiopia, he considers to be the Etesian or north winds, which blow for a long period when the Nile is falling. He goes on to say:--]

As to what they relate of the shutting up of Osiris in a box, this appears to mean the withdrawal of the

p. 244

[paragraph continues] Nile to its own bed. This is the more probable as this misfortune is said to have happened to Osiris in the month of Hathor, precisely at that season of the year when, upon the cessation of the Etesian or north winds the Nile returns to its own bed, and leaves the country everywhere bare and naked. At this time also the length of the nights increases, darkness prevails, whilst light is diminished and overcome. At this time the priests celebrate doleful rites, and they exhibit as a suitable representation of the grief of Isis a gilded ox covered with a fine black linen cloth. Now, the ox is regarded as the living image of Osiris. This ceremony is performed on the seventeenth and three following days, 1 and they mourn: 1. The falling of the Nile; 2. The cessation of the north winds; 3. The decrease in the length of the days; 4. The desolate condition of the land. On the nineteenth of the month Pachons they march in procession to the sea, whither the priests and other officials carry the sacred chest, wherein is enclosed a small boat of gold; into this they first pour some water, and then all present cry out with a loud voice, "Osiris is found." This done, they throw some earth, scent, and spices into the water, and mix it well

p. 245

together, and work it up into the image of a crescent, which they afterwards dress in clothes. This shows that they regard the gods as the essence and power of water and earth.


243:1 Plutarch seems to be confounding Osiris with Menu, the god of generation, who is generally represented in an ithyphallic form. The festival of the phallus survived in Egypt until quite recently.

243:2 The Egyptian ANPU. The texts make one form of him to be the son of Set and Nephthys.

243:3 Plutarch's explanations in this chapter are unsupported by the texts.

244:1 The 17th day is very unlucky; the 18th is very lucky; the 19th and 20th are very unlucky. On the 17th day Isis and Nephthys made great lamentation for their brother Un-nefer at Saïs; on the 19th no man should leave the house; and the man born on the 20th would die of the plague.


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