Index  Previous  Next 

The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead


5. And not least of all does the belief of the Osirians—since the body [of Osiris] is said to be in many places—[suggest this].

6. For they say that both Diochitē is called Polichnē, 3 because it alone has the true one; and [also] that it is at Abydos that the wealthy and powerful of the Egyptians are mostly buried,—their ambition being to have a common place of burial with the body of Osiris; and [again] that it is at Memphis that the Apis is

p. 293

reared as the image of the soul of Osiris, because it is there also that his body lies.

7. And as for the City, 1 some interpret it as “Harbour of Good Things,” but others give it the special meaning of “Tomb of Osiris”; it is, however, the little island one 2 at Philæ [they say] which is in other respects inaccessible and inapproachable by all, and that not even the birds light on it or fish come near it, but at a certain season the priests cross over [to it] and make offerings to the dead, and place wreaths on the monument which is overshadowed by a . . . 3 tree, which is greater in size than any olive.

XXI. 1. Eudoxus, however, [says] that, though many tombs are spoken of in Egypt, the body lies at Būsiris, for that this had been the native city of Osiris; nevertheless Taphosiris requires no further reason [to establish its claim], for the name explains itself—namely, “Burying of Osiris.”

“But I rede of cutting of wood, of rending of linen, and pouring of pourings, because many of the mystery-[meanings] have been mixed up with them.” 4

p. 294

2. But the priests say that not only of these Gods, but also of all the other gods also who are not ingenerable and indestructible, the bodies lie buried with them when they 1 have done their work, and have service rendered them, while their souls shine in heaven as

p. 295

stars; and that [of the former] the [soul] of Isis is called Dog by the Greeks, but Sōthis by the Egyptians, while the [soul] of Horus [is called] Ōriōn, 1 and Typhon’s Bear. 2

3. And [they say] that for the burials of the animals to whom honour is paid, the rest [of the Egyptians] pay the [dues which are] mutually determined; but that those alone who inhabit the Thebaid give nothing, since they believe that no God is subject to death, and that he whom they themselves call Knēph is ingenerable and immortal.


292:3 Either the reading is at fault, or some word-play is intended. Dio-chitē is probably Zeus-something; but I cannot resolve it. While Polichnē is a rare diminutive of πόλις, and would thus mean “Little City.”

293:1 ? Memphis; or, perhaps, as contrasted with the Little City above.

293:2 Sc. city; νιστιτάνην is a hopeless reading, and as the editors can make nothing out of it, I suggest νησίτιδα or νησιδάνην (πόλιν).

293:3 μηθίδης—apparently an error; Bernardakis suggests μίνθης (Lat. mentha) “mint.” Can the right reading be μηδικῆς (πόας)? The herba medica, was, however, the sainfoin or lucerne, which, though reminding us of the melilote of xiv., is hardly capable of overshadowing a tomb even in the most intricate symbolical sense.

293:4 Evidently a verbal quotation from Eudoxus. The “cutting of wood” presumably refers to the trunk with lopped branches, which, as we have already mentioned, occurs so frequently on so-called “Gnostic” gems; the “rending of linen” (λίνου) might also be made to refer to Linus, the Bard, and his being torn to pieces like Osiris; Linos also means the “Song of Linus,” so called, it is supposed by some, because in earliest times the strings of the cithara were made of flax. For other names of singers used for lays or modes of song, compare Manerōs and Pæan; though, of course, the modern way is to regard the singer as the personification of the lay. Thus in Emil Naumann’s History of Music (trans, by F. Praeger; London, 1882), p. 3, we read: “The Greek tribes of Peloponnesus and Hellas, as well as the Egyptians, Phœnicians, the Greeks inhabiting the isles of the Ægean Sea, and especially those of Cyprus, had a primitive ‘Lament’ which seems to have come originally from Phœnicia. It was a funeral chant on the death of the youthful Adonis. . . . The Egyptians changed its signification into a lament of Isis for Osiris. The Greeks called it Linos, and the Egyptians Maneros.” The beginning of the “Manerōs,” or the Lament of Isis for her Beloved, is given as follows by Naumann (p. 40):

“Return, oh, return!
God Panu, return!
Those that were enemies are no more here.
Oh lovely helper, return,
That thou may’st see me, thy sister,
Who loves thee.
And com’st thou not near me?
O beautiful youth, return, oh, return!
When I see thee not
My heart sorrows for thee,
My eyes ever seek thee,
I roam about for thee, to see thee in the form of the Nai,
To see thee, to see thee, thou beautiful lov’d one.
Let me the Radiant, see thee
God Panu, All-Glory, see thee again!
To thy belovèd come, blessed Onnòfris,
Come to thy sister, come to thy wife,
God Urtuhet, oh, come!
Come to thy consort!”
Unfortunately, Naumann does not give any references by which we can control his statements.

294:1 The bodies; presumably referring to the mummies of those men and women who were believed to have reached the god-stage while living.

295:1 Cf. xxii. 3.

295:2 Probably all name-plays: κύων (dog), √κυ (conceive)—see lxi. 6; H-ōr-os, Ōr-iōn; ἄρκ-τος (bear), √αρκ (suffice, endure, bear); Ursa Major is called the Wain.

Next: Concerning the Theory of Evemerus