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The Gods Of Egypt
Asar-Hapi, or Serapis


Amen (Amon) and Amen-Ra, King of the Gods | Forms of Amen-Ra | Osiris, Asar | Worship of Osiris | Isis | Anpu, or Anubis | Horus | Nephthys | Asar-Hapi, or Serapis | Nut | The Gods of Heliopolis | Egyptian Mythology | Hieroglyphics | Galery

Asar-Hapi, or Serapis

In connection with the history of the god Osiris mention must be made of Asar-hapi or Serapis, and in many provinces of the Roman Empire after that country had passed under the authority of the Caesars. The second part of the name, "Hapi, was that which was given to the famous bull which formed the object of worship at Memphis very early in the dynastic period of Egyptian history, and which is commonly known as the "Apis Bull," while the first part is, of course, nothing but the name of Osiris in its Egyptian form. The Greeks fused the names of the two deities together under the form Zaparrus, and, although the exact nature of the attributes which they assigned to Osiris and Apis united is not quite clear, it seems tolerably certain that they regard Serapis as the form which Apis took after death. According to the hieroglyphic texts which were found on stelae and other objects in the Serapeum at Sakkara, Apis is called "the life of Osiris, the lord of heaven, Tem {with} his horns {in} his head." and he is said to "give life, strength, health, to thy nostrils for ever." Elsewhere Apis-Osiris is described as, "the great god, Khent, Amentet, the lord of life forever," and this text belongs to the 18th Dynasty, we see that even at the beginning of the New Empire Apis and Osiris were joined together by the priests of Memphis, and that the attributes of Apis had been made to assume a funeral character, and that he was at that time recognized as a god of the Underworld. On a monument of the 19th Dynasty, Apis is said to be "the renewed life of Ptah," And in an inscription of the 25th Dynasty he is called the "second Ptah." In the same text we have a mention of the "temple of Asar-Hapi," i.e., of Serapis, and we may learn from this fact that Apis had finally made a god of the Underworld, and that his identity had been merged in that of Osiris. The identification of Apis with Osiris was easy enough, because one of the most common names of Osiris was "Bull of the West," and the identification once made the shrines of Osiris were regarded as the proper places at which the worship of the double god should be paid. Apis was, in fact, believed to be animated by the soul of Osiris,and to be Osiris incarnate, and the appearance of a new Apis was regarded as a new manifestation of Osiris upon earth; but he was also an emanation of Ptah, and he was even called the "son of Ptah," The double god Asar-Asar, is depicted in the form of a bull, which has the solar disk and a uraeus between its horns.

And, behold, the "heart of the women who had not opened her doors to me was "sad, for she knew not whether her son would live, and although "she went round about through her city uttering cries of lamentation none came at her call. But mine own heart was sad for the "child's sake, and I wished to restore to life him that had "committed no fault. Therefore upon I cried out to the noble lady, "Come to me. Come to me, for my speech hath in it the power "to protect, and it possesseth life. I am a women who is "well known in her city, and I drive the evil out of thy son by one "of my utterances,which my father taught me, for I was the "beloved daughter of his body."

The noble lady presumably listened to the words of Isis, who, it seems, either went to her house, or had the dead child brought "into her presence, for the narrative continues, "Then Isis laid her hands upon the child to restore to life him that was without "breath (literally 'him whose throat was foul'), and said, 'O poison of Tefen, come forth, and appear on the ground; come not in, approach not! O poison of Befent, come forth, and appear on the ground! for I am the goddess, and I am the lady of words of power, and most mighty are {my} words! O all ye reptiles which sting, hearken unto me, and fall ye down on the ground! O poison of Mestet, O poison of Mestetef, rise not up! O poison of Petet and Thetet, enter not here! {O poison of} Maatet, fall down!'" Next in the narrative we have the words of the "Chapter of the stinging {of scorpions}" which Isis the goddess and great enchantress at the head of the gods, spoke on the occasion, and it is said that she learned her method of procedure from Seb, who had taught her how to drive out poison. At the dawn of the day she uttered the words, "O poison, get the back, turn away, begone, retreat," and added "Mer-Ra:" and at eventide she said, "The Egg of the Goose" cometh forth "from the Sycamore." Then turning to the Seven Scorpions she said, "I speak to you, for I am alone and am in sorrow which is greater than that of anyone in the nomes of Egypt. I am like a man who hath become old, and who hath ceased to search after and to look upon women in their houses.Turn your faces down to the ground, and find ye me straightway a way to the swamps a way to the hidden places in Khebet. Following this passage come the exclamation, "The "child liveth and the poison dieth: the Sun liveth and the poison dieth, and then the wishes, "May Horus be in good case for his mother Isis" The fire in the house of the noble lady was extinguished and heaven was satisfied with the words which the goddess Isis had spoken. The narrative is continued by Isis in these words: "Then came the lady who had shut the doors against me, and took possession of the house of the fen-women because she had opened the door of her house unto me, and because of this the noble lady suffered pain and sorrow during a whole night, and she had to bear {the thought} of her speech, and that her son had been stung because she had closed the doors and had not opened them to me. Following this come the words, O, the child liveth, the poison dieth! Verily, Horus shall be in good case for his mother Isis! Verily, in like manner shall he be in good case who shall find himself in a similar position ! Shall not the bread of barley drive out the poison and make it to return from the limbs? Shall not the flame of the hetchet plant drive out the fire from the members?"

"Isis, Isis, come to thy child Horus, O thou whose mouth is wise, come to thy son: thus cried out the gods who were near her after the manner of one whom a scorpion hath stung, and like one whom Behat, whom the animal Antesh put to flight, hath wounded. Then came Isis like a women who was smitten, in her own body. And she stretched out her two arms, {saying}, I will protect thee, O my son Horus. Fear thou art, O son, my glorious one. No evil thing whatsoever shall happen unto thee, for in thee is the seed whereof things which are to be shall be created. Thou art the son within the Mesqet, who hast proceeded from Nu, and thou shalt not die by the flame of the poison . thou art the Great Bennu who was born on the Incense Trees in the House of the Great Prince in Heliopolis. Thou art the brother of the Abtu fish, who does arrange that which is to be, and who was nursed by the Cat within the House of Net. Reret, Hat and Bes protect thy limbs. Thine head shall not fall before him that is hostile to thee. The fire of that which hath poisoned thee shall not have dominion over the limbs. thou shall not fail on land, and thou shalt not be in peril on the water. No reptile that stingeth shall have the mastery over thee, and no lion shall crush thee or gain the mastery over thee. Thou art the son of the holy god and does proceed from Seb. Thou art Horus, and the poison which is in thy limbs shall not have the mastery over thee. And the four noble goddesses shall protect thy limbs."

From the above we see that the gods informed Isis that her son Horus had been stung by a scorpion, and from what follows we see in what condition Isis found her son. She says, ", Isis conceived a man child, and I was heavy with Horus. I, the goddess, bare Horus, the son of Isis, within a nest of papyrus plants {'or, Island of Ateh'} I rejoiced over him with exceedingly great joy, for I saw in him one who would make answer for his father. I hid him, and I concealed him, for I was afraid lest he should be bitten. Now I went away to the city of Am, and the people thereof saluted me according to their wont, and I passed the time in seeking food and provision for the boy: but when I returned to embrace Horus, I found him, the beautiful one, of the golden boy, the child, unert and helpless. He had bedewed the ground with the water of his eye, and with the foam of his lips; his body was motionless, and his heart was still, and his muscles moved not, and I sent forth a cry...... Then straightway the dwellers in the swamps came round me, and the fen men came out to me from their houses, and they drew nigh to me at my call, and they themselves wept at the greatness of my misery. Yet no man there opened his mouth to speak to me because they all grieved for me sorely and no man among them knew how to restore Horus to life. Then there came unto me a women who was well known in her city, and she was a lady at the head of her district, and she came to me restore {Horus} to custom, but the child Horus remained motionless and moved not. The son of the goddess-mother had been smitten by the evil of his brother. The plants {where Horus was}were concealed, and no hostile being could find a way into them."

"The word of power of Tem, the father of the gods, who is in heaven, acted as the maker of life, and Set had not entered into this region, and he could not go round about the city of Kheb {Khemmis}: and Horus was safe from the wickedness of his brother. But Isis had not hidden those who ministered unto him many times each day, and these said concerning him, Horus liveth for his mother; they found out where he was, and a scorpion stung him, and Aun-ab {i.e., Slayer of the heart} stabbed him."

"Then "Isis placed her nose in the mouth of Horus to learn if there was any breath in him that was in his coffin, and she opened the wound of the divine heir, and she found poison therein. Then she embraced him hurriedly and leaped about with him like a fish when it is placed over a hot fire, and she said, Horus is stung, O Ra, thy son is stung. Horus, the child of the Papyrus Swamps, the child in Het-ser is stung; the Beautiful Child of Gold is stung, and the Child, the Babe, hath become a thing of nothingness. Horus, the son of Un-nefer, is stung,' etc. Then came Nepthys shedding tears, and she went about the Papyrus Swamps uttering cries of grief, and the goddess Serqet said, 'What is it ? What is it ? What hath happened to the child Horus? O Isis, pray thou to heaven so that the sailors of Ra may cease rowing, so that the Boat of Ra may not depart from the place where the child Horus is.' Then Isis sent forth a cry to heaven, and addressed her prayer to the boat of Millions of Years; and the Disk stood still, and moved not from the place where he was. And Thoth came, and he was provided with magical powers and possessed the great power which made {his} word to become Maat {i.e.,Law}, and he said: O Isis, thou goddess, thou glorious one, who hast knowledge how to use thy mouth, behold, no evil shall come upon the child Horus, for his protection cometh from the Boat of Ra. I have come this day in the Boat of the Disk from the place where it was yesterday. When the night cometh the light shall drive {it }away for the healing of Horus for the sake of his mother Isis, and every person who is under the knife {shall be healed} likewise." In answer to this speech Isis told Thoth that she was afraid he had come too late, but she begged him, nevertheless, to come to the child and bring with him his magical powers which enabled him to give effect to every command which he uttered. Thereupon Thoth besought Isis not to fear, and Nepthhys not to weep, for said he, "I have come from heaven in order to save the child for his mother," and he straightway spoke the words of power which restored Horus to life, and served to protect him afterward in heaven, and in earth, and the Underworld.

The region where all these things took place was situated in Delt, and the Island in the Papyrus Swamps, where Isis brought forth the child and hid him, was near the famous double city of Pe-Tep, which was commonly called Buto by the Greeks. It is impossible to assign a date to the composition of the story briefly narrated above, but it is, no doubt, as old as the legends about the death and resurrection of Osiris, and it must from an integral portion of them, and date from the period when Libyan gods and goddess were worshipped in the Delta and in certain parts of Upper Egypt before the great development of Sun-worship. The chief importance of the story consists in the fact that it makes Isis to be both woman and goddess, just as the story of Osiris makes that deity to be both god an man, and it is quite conceivable that in the predynastic times the sorrow of Isis, like those of Osiris, formed the subject of miracle plays which were acted annually in all entres of the worship of Isis. Isis as the faithful and loving wife, and the tender and devoted mother won the hearts of the Egyptians in all periods of their history, and we can only regret that the narrative of the wanderings an sorrow of the goddess is not known to us in all its details. Her persecution by Set after her husband's death was favorite theme of ancient writers, who delighted in showing how the goddess outwitted her terrible adversary; thus on one occasion she was so hard pressed by him that she changed her body into that of the cow-goddess Heru-Sekha, and her son Horus into an Apis Bull, and went away with him to the Apis temple, in order that she might see his father Osiris, who was therein.

Another great human element in the story of Isis which appealed to the Egyptians was the desire of the goddess to be avenged on the murder of her husband, an it is this which is referred to in the words of Isis, who says, "I rejoined over him with "with exceedingly great joy, for I saw in him one who would make "answer for his father." The manner in which Horus "made answer for his father." The manner in which Horus "made answer for " avenged his father is told in the Sallier Papyrus {translated by Chabas,} where it is said that Horus and Set fought together, standing on their feet, first in the forms of men and next in the forms of two bears.

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