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Ancient Egyptian Texts:  1.12


MYTHS OF ISIS


Text:   MMA 50.85   [ TM 113760 ]
Date:   360-343 B.C.
Script:   Hieroglyphic
Translated by:   J.P.Allen
Format:   see key to translations

These stories are preserved on the Metternich Stela, which is full of incantations against noxious creatures.   The translations are taken from J.P.Allen, "The Art of Medicine in Ancient Egypt" (2005), no. 52.


[A]   { Story of Isis and the Infant Horus }

I am Isis, who had conceived her baby and was pregnant with divine Horus. When I had given birth to Horus, Osiris's son, within the nest of Khemmis, I became agitated over it very much, saying: "Now that I have seen the one who will answer for his father, I will hide him and conceal him for fear of that evil one, and I will wander as a beggar in fear of the one who does violence and spend my time searching and acting on Horus's behalf."

When I returned to look for Horus, I found him, Horus, young and golden, a helpless and fatherless child, having wet the shores with the waters of his eye and the spittle of his lips, his body inert and his heart languid, and the vessels of his body not beating. I let out a wail, saying: "It is I, it is I," but the child was too weak to respond. My breasts were engorged and his belly empty, the mouth needing its thing. The well was brimful and the child thirsty, and my intention was to come to his aid, for he was greatly injured, but the child was helpless and refused the milk jug, having been left alone too long.

How great was the fear for lack of one to come at my voice! My father was in the Duat, my mother in the Place of Silence, and my elder brother in the sarcophagus. The other brother was the enemy, extensive in the fury of his heart against me, and my little sister was against me in his house. So who among people could I call to and their heart would turn to me? So I called to those in the marsh and they turned to me at once. The lowly came to me from their house and sprang to me at my voice. They mourned at it, saying how great was my suffering. But there was no one there who could enchant him with his spell, though every man of them was jabbering very, very much; there was none of them who knew a life-giving spell.

There came to me a woman wise in her town, a noblewoman at the fore of her district. More trustworthy than they because of her knowledge, she came to me with her mouth full of life:

"Don't fear, don't fear, son Horus! Don't despair, don't despair, god's mother! The child is safe from the evil of his brother. The bush where he lies is hidden and the Captive cannot enter it. The magic of Atum, the gods' father, who is in the sky, is your life-maker. Seth cannot enter this district and

Khemmis cannot turn to him. Horus is safe from the evil of his brother and those in his brother's following cannot overthrow him. Seek out how this happened to him and Horus will live for his mother. Perhaps a scorpion was stinging him or a jealous snake poisoning him."

When Isis put her nose in his mouth and discovered the smell there as that of one within his sarcophagus, she recognized the illness of the god's heir, having found him to have poison. She embraced him very, very quickly, jumping around like fish thrown on a frying pan: "Horus has been bitten, Sun. Your son has been bitten. Horus has been bitten - the heir of your heir, who raises the kingship of Shu. Horus has been bitten - the youth of Khemmis, the child of the Official's Enclave. The young child of gold has been bitten, the helpless, fatherless baby. Horus has been bitten - Onnophris's son, to whom She Who Laments gave birth. Horus has been bitten - the innocent one, the youngest son among the gods. Horus has been bitten - whose care was entrusted to me with a view to answering for his father. Horus has been bitten - the one cared for in secret, feared in the belly of his mother. Horus has been bitten - the one I guarded from sight, for whose heart I desired life. The helpless one has been cheated of care, and those assigned to the child are powerless."

So Nephthys came, weeping, and her wail went around the marsh. Selket said: "What? What? Who now is against son Horus? Isis, call out to the above so that a strike will happen in the Sun's crew and the boat of the Sun cannot proceed while son Horus is ill on his side." Isis sent her voice above, her cry to the boat of Millions, and the sun disk landed opposite her and did not move from his place.

Thoth came, equipped with his magic and bearing the great command of justification. "What, what, Isis the goddess, effective one who knows her mouth? There can be no evil against son Horus: his protection is that of the boat of the Sun. I have come today from the gods boat. The sun disk is in its place of yesterday; darkness has happened and sunlight is repelled until Horus gets well for his mother Isis - and every man who is suffering as well."

Isis the goddess spoke: "Thoth, how great is your intention, but your plan for it is too late. Though you have come equipped with your magic and bearing the great command of justification, one thing after another without number, look, Horus is in need because of poison. The evil is so bad that the needy one will die completely. Would that he were again united with his mother and I would not see this hounding him. My mind would be at rest from it. From the first I hesitated to respond, 'Horus, Horus, stay on earth!' From the day I got him I have wished to bestow the life force of his father, but the child is ill."

"Don't fear, don't fear, Isis the goddess! Nephthys, don't wail! I have come from the sky with the air of life to make the child live for his mother. Horus, your heart is firm: it cannot grow weary because of the fire.

"Horus's protection is the one in his sun disk, when he has ignited the Two Lands with the effectiveness of his two eyes - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the eldest in Nut, who commands the conduct of what is and what is not - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is that big dwarf who goes around the Two Lands at twilight - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the lion by night, who sails at the fore of the western mountain - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the big hidden ram, who goes around in his sacred eyes - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the large falcon who hovers in the sky, earth, and Duat - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the august beetle with large wings at the fore of the Duat - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the secret corpse in his mummy within his sarcophagus—and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the Duat-dweller of the Two Lands, who goes around in faces, secret of properties - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the divine heron, who climbs within his sacred eyes - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is his own body and the magic of his mother Isis is his protection. Horus's protection is the identities of his father in his conduct in the nomes - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is the mourning of his mother and the cries of his brothers - and the protection of the afflicted as well. Horus's protection is his own identity, which the gods serve by aiding him—and the protection of the afflicted as well.

"Be awake, Horus, for your protection is set, and ease the mind of your mother Isis. Horus's voice will raise hearts when he has calmed her who was in sadness. Let your heart be sweet, you in Nut, for Horus has cared for his father.

"Retreat, poison! Look, you are enchanted by the mouth of Isis and the tongue of the great god has barred you. The boat is stopped and will not sail and the sun disk is where it was yesterday until Horus gets well for his mother Isis, until the afflicted gets well for his mother as well. Come down, so that the boat can proceed and Nut's crew can sail! Food will be marooned and the sanctuary closed up until Horus gets well for his mother Isis, until the afflicted gets well for his mother as well. Suffering will hurt those who have it and chaos will revert to its activity of yesterday until Horus gets well for his mother Isis, until the afflicted gets well for his mother as well. Harm will circulate, the times of day cannot be separated, light cannot be distinguished from shadow by day or night, until Horus gets well for his mother Isis, until the afflicted gets well for his mother as well. The two caverns will be closed up, vegetation will dry up, and life will retreat from the living, until Horus gets well for his mother Isis, until the afflicted gets well for his mother as well. Come down, poison, so that minds may become glad and sun-light may circulate! I am Thoth, the eldest son of the Sun, and Atum and the Ennead have commanded me to heal Horus for his mother Isis, and to heal the afflicted as well.

"Horus, Horus, your life force is your protection and your conduct is helping you. The poison is dead and its heat repelled because it has bitten the Powerful One's son. So, proceed to your homes: Horus is alive for his mother, and the afflicted as well."

Isis spoke: "So, may you reveal him to those in Khemmis and the nurses in Pe and Dep, and order them very, very much to keep the child sound for his mother, and to keep the afflicted sound as well. Don't let them think my life force in Khemmis was only that of a poor woman who fled her town."

Thoth spoke to the gods and told those in Khemmis: "Oh, nurses in Pe, who are beating themselves and flailing with their arms over that great one who has emerged at their fore, you shall watch over this child, seeking his way among faces. Divert the paths of those who rebel against him until he has acquired the Two Lands' throne. The Sun in the sky is responsible for him and his father is made watchful over him. The magic spells of his mother are his protection, circulating love of him and putting fear of him in faces. I am awaited to command the Night-boat and let the Day-boat proceed. Horus is yours, allotted to life. I shall report for the life to his father and give joy to those in the Nightboat so that the crew will sail - that Horus is alive for his mother Isis, and that the afflicted one is alive for his mother as well. That poison is powerless, so the expert will be blessed for his duty, for making report to the one who sent him: 'Let your heart be glad, Sun Harakhti! Your son Horus is allotted to life.' "

[B]   { Story of Isis and the Noblewoman }

I am Isis. I came out of the weaving house that my brother Seth had put me in and Thoth, the elder god, chief of Maat in the sky and earth, spoke to me: "Come, Isis, goddess, for it is good to hear. One will live when another leads him. So hide with the baby son, that he may come to us when his body has grown and all his strength has evolved, and he may be made to rest on his throne when the office of the Two Lands' ruler has been acknowledged his."

I went out at the time of evening, and seven scorpions went out behind me that they might serve me: Tefen and Befen on both sides of me; Mestet and Mestefet under my bed; Petet, Tjetet, and Matet sweeping the way for me. I ordered them very, very strongly, and my speech proceeded into their ears: "Don't know the black, don't ask the red, don't recognize the upper-class man from the lower-class. Keep your face down on the path; beware of letting him who seeks me go before we have reached Persui, the town of the two sisters at the front of the marsh and the rear of Buto."

And when I reached the houses of married women, a noblewoman saw me on the way and shut her doors on me, since she was upset at those who were with me.

They consulted about her and put their poison together on the tip of the stinger of Tefen. A lowly woman opened her doorway to me so that her humble house could be entered, and Tefen entered under the door-leaves of the rich woman's doorway and stung the rich woman's son. Fire broke out in the rich womans house and there was no water there to quench it; the sky rained on the rich woman's house though it was not the season for it - for she did not open to me. Her heart became sad, since it was not known whether he would live. When she went around her town wailing in grief, there was no one who came at her voice.

My heart became sad for the little one because of her, enough to give life to the innocent one. I called to her, saying: "Come to me, come to me! Look, my mouth has life. I am a knowledgeable daughter of her town, who can repel the scurrying serpent with her utterance, for my father has taught me to know. I am his beloved, bodily daughter."

Isis laid her hands on the child to give life to the one being asphyxiated, saying: "Tefen's poison, come! Come out on the ground! You shall not course, you shall not enter. Befhet's poison, come! Come out on the ground! I am Isis the goddess, mistress of magic, doer of magic, effective of recitations: every biting serpent-mouth listens to me. You have fallen down, poison of Mestet; you cannot run, poison of Mestefet; you cannot rise, poison of Petet and Tjetet; you cannot proceed, Matet. Fall down, mouth of the biter, for Isis has spoken, the goddess great of magic at the fore of the gods, to whom Geb has given his effectiveness to bar poison with her control. Be barred! Reverse! Retreat! Back, poison! Don't spring up! So says the Sun's beloved, egg of the goose who came from the sycamore.

Now look, my words have been commanded since nightfall. I speak to you, I alone. Don't pull down our names throughout the nomes. Don't acknowledge the black, don't ask the red, don't look at the noblewomen in their houses. Keep your face down on the path until we reach the hiding place in Khemmis. Oh, may the child live and the poison die, may the Sun live and the poison die: then Horus will become healthy for his mother Isis, then he who is suffering will become healthy as well."

The fire was quenched, the sky grew calm at the utterance of Isis the goddess. The rich woman came and brought me her property; she filled the house of the lowly woman with food for the lowly child, for her door had been opened to me while the rich woman was upset. She went around in the night alone and bitter, her son was bitten, and the lowly woman got her property - as the result of her not opening to me.

Oh, may the child live and the poison die: then Horus will become healthy for his mother Isis, then everyone who is suffering will become healthy as well. Bread of emmer is what will repel poison so that it retreats; the fiery bulbs of onion is what will repel fever from the body.


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