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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead


XXX. 1. Osiris and Isis have, then, changed from good daimones into gods. While as for the dimmed and shattered power of Typhon, though it is at the last

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gasp and in its final death-throes, they still appease and soothe it with certain feasts of offerings.

2. Yet, again, every now and then at certain festivals they humiliate it dreadfully and treat it most despitefully,—even to rolling red-skinned men in the mud, and driving an ass over a precipice (as the Koptos folk), because Typhon was born with his skin red and ass-like. While the Busiris folk and Lycopolitans do not use trumpets at all, as they sound like an ass [braying].

3. And generally they think that the ass is not clean, but a daimonic animal, on account of its resemblance to that [god]; and making round-cakes for feasts of offerings on both the month of Paÿni and that of Phaōphi, 1 they stamp on them an “ass tied.” 2

4. And on the Feast of Offerings of the Sun, they pass the word to the worshippers not to wear on the body things made of gold nor to give food to an ass. 3

5. The Pythagorics also seem to consider Typhon a daimonic power; for they say that Typhon was produced on the six-and-fiftieth even measure; and again that the [power 4] of the equilateral triangle is that of Hades and Dionysus and Ares; that of the square is that of Rhea and Aphroditē and Demeter and Hestia (that is, Hera); that of the dodecagon, that of Zeus; and that of the fifty-six angled [regular polygon], that of Typhon—as Eudoxus relates. 5

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XXXI. 1. And, as Egyptians believe that Typhon was born red-skinned, 1 they offer in sacrifice even the red ones of the oxen [only] after making the scrutiny so close, that if [the beast] has even a single hair black or white, they consider it ought not to be offered; for if it were sacrificed, it would not be an acceptable offering to the gods, but the contrary, [as are] all those animals which have seized on the souls of impure and unrighteous men in the course of their transformation into bodies other [than human].

2. Wherefore after uttering imprecations on the head of the victim, 2 and cutting off its head, they used to cast it into the river in olden days, but nowadays they give it to strangers.

3. But as to the one that is to be sacrificed, those of the priests who are called Sealers, set a mark upon it—the seal (as Kastōr 3 relates) having the impression of a man forced down on one knee with his hands drawn round behind him, and a sword sticking in his throat. 4

4. And they think that the ass also has the distinction of its resemblance [to Typhon], as has been said, owing to its aversion to being taught and to its wantonness, no less than on account of its skin. 5

5. For which cause also since they especially detested

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[paragraph continues] Ōchus 1 of [all] the Persian kings as being blood-polluted and abominable, they gave him the nickname of “Ass.”

But he, with the retort: “This Ass, however, will make a fine feast off your Ox”—slaughtered the Apis, as Deinōn has told us. 2

6. Those, however, who say that Typhon’s flight from the fight on an ass lasted seven days, and that after reaching a place of safety he begat sons—Hierosolymus and Judæus—are instantly convicted of dragging Judaïc matters into the myth. 3


305:1 Copt. Paōni and Paopi—corr. roughly with June and October.

305:2 ὄνον δεδεμένον. Cf. Matt. xxi. 2: ὄνον δεδεμένην; cf. also 1. 3, where it is a hippopotamus.

305:3 That is, presumably, not to weigh down their minds with the superfluity of riches, nor to feed up the stupid and lustful energies of their souls.

305:4 A “power” in Pythagorean technology is the side of a square (or, perhaps, of any equilateral polygon) in geometry; and in arithmetic the square root, or that which being multiplied into itself produces the square.

305:5 Eudoxus seems to have been Plutarch’s authority for his statements regarding Pythagorean doctrine; cf. vi., lii., lxii. The Typhonic figure might be generated by “sevening” the interior angles of a regular octagon and producing the radii to the circumference of the circumscribed circle, or by “eighting” the interior angles of a regular heptagon.

306:1 Or “fire-coloured.”

306:2 Compare the Ritual of Azāzel (the scape-goat), one of the two goats set apart on the Great Day of Atonement among the Jews (Lev. xvi. 8 ff.).

306:3 Cf. also Plut., Ætia Romana, x. Castor was a Greek historian who was a contemporary of Cicero and Julius Cæsar.

306:4 The ox was, therefore, the vicarious atonement of the man.

306:5 It was a red ass, then, which symbolised the Typhonic power.

307:1 Cf. xi. 4.

307:2 Müller, ii. 95. Deinōn was a contemporary of Alexander the Great, and wrote a history of Persia.

307:3 This item of ancient scandal would almost seem to have come from the pen of an Apion; it is an interesting specimen of theological controversy in story-form.

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