Egypt: Gods - Cippi of Horus

Cippi of Horus

In connection with the god Horus and his forms as the god of the rising sun and the symbol and personification of Light must be mentioned a comparatively numerous class of small rounded stelae on convex bases, on front of which are sculptured in relief figures of the god Horus standing upon two crocodiles. These curious and interesting objects are made of basalt and other kinds of hard stone, and of calcareous stone, and they vary in height from 3 ins. to 20 ins.; they were used as talismans by the Egyptians, who placed them in their houses and gardens, and even buried them in the ground to protect themselves and their property from the attacks of noxious beasts, and reptiles, and insects of every kind. In addition to the figures of Horus and of the animals over which are sculptured upon cippi of Horus, the backs, sides, and bases are usually covered with magical texts. The ideas suggested by the figures and the texts are extremely old, but the grouping and arrangement of them which are found on the stelae under construction are not older than the XXVIth Dynasty; it is doubtful if this class of objects came onto general use very much earlier than the end of the period of the Persian occupation of Egypt. The various museums of Europe contain several examples of cippi, but the largest , and finest, and most important, is undoubtedly that which is commonly known as the "Metternich Stele, it was found in the year 1828 during the building of a cistern in a Muhammad monastery in Alexandria, and was presented by Muhammad "Ali Pasha to Prince Metternich. We are, fortunately, enabled to date the stele from the name of Nectanebus I. The last one of the narrative kings of Egypt, who reigned from B.C. 378 to B.C. 360, occurs on it, and it is clear from several considerations that such a monument could have been produced only about this period. On the front of the stele {see page 271 we have the following figures and scenes:----

1. The solar disk wherein is seated the four-fold god Khnemu, who represents the gods of the four elements, between, which is supported on a lake of water; on each side of it stand four apes, with their paws stretched out in adoration. No names are given to the apes here, but we may find them in a text at Edfu where they are called:

5. AP

The Bentet apes praised the morning sun, and the Utennu apes praised the evening sun, and the Sun-god was pleased both with their words and with their voices. On the right hand side is a figure of king Nectanebus kneeling before a lotus standard, with plumes and menats, and on the left is the figure of the god Thoth holding a palette in his left hand.

2. In this register we have (a) Ptah-Seker_Asar standing on crocodiles, the gods Amsu and Khepera standing on pedestals, Khas, a lion -headed god, Thoth, Serqet and Hathor grouped round a god who is provided with the heads of seven birds and animals, and four wings, and two horns surmounted by four uraei and four knives, and who stands upon two crocodiles. (b) Taurt holding a crocodile by a chain or rope which a hawk-headed god is about to spear in the presence of Isis, Nephthys, and four other deities, etc.

3. Isis holding Horus in her outstretched right hand, and standing on a crocodile. Standard of Nekhebet. Horus, with a human phallus, and a lion, on a lake (?) containing two crocodiles. Seven halls or lakes, each guarded by a god. A lion treading on a crocodile, which lies on its back, four gods, a lion standing on the back of a crocodile, a vulture, a god embracing a goddess, and three goddesses. 4. Horus spearing a crocodile which is led captive by Ta-urt. The four children of Horus. Neith and the two crocodile gods. Harpocrates seated upon a crocodile under a serpent. A lion, two scorpions and an oryx, symbols of Set. Seven serpents having their tails pierced by arrows or darts. A king in a chariot drawn by the fabulous AKHEKH animal which gallops over two crocodiles. Horus standing on the back of the oryx, emblem of Set.

5. A miscellaneous group of gods, nearly all of whom are forms of the Sun-god and are gods of reproduction and regeneration.

6. A hawk god, with dwarf's legs, and holding bows and arrows. Horus standing on an oryx (Set). A cat on a pedestal. An-her spearing an animal. Uraeus on the top of a staircase. The ape of Thoth on a pylon. Two Utchats, the solar disk, and a crocodile. Ptah-Seker-Asar. The Horus of gold. Serpent with a disk on his head. A group of solar gods followed by Ta-urt and Bes.

7. In this large scene Horus stands with his feet upon the backs of two crocodiles, and he grasps in his hands the reptiles and animals which are the emblems of the foes of light and of the powers of evil. He wears the lock of youth, and above his head is the head of the old god Bes, who here symbolizes the Sun-god at eventide. The canopy under which he stands is held up by Thoth and Isis, each of whom stands upon a coiled up serpent, which has a knife stuck in his forehead. Above the canopy are the two Utchats, with human hands and arms attached, and within it by the sides of the god are:

1. Horus-Ra standing on a coiled up serpent.

2. A lotus standard, with plumes and menats.

3. A papyrus standard surmounted by a figure of a hawk wearing the crown.

On the back of the Stele we have a figure of the aged Sun-god in the form of a man-hawk, and he has above his head the heads of a number of animals, e.g., the oryx and the crocodile, and a pair of horns, and eight knives. He has four human arms, to two of which beings are attached, and in each hand he grasps two serpents, two knives, and "life," "stability," and "power," ; and numbers of figures of gods. His two other human arms are not attached to wings, and in one hand he holds the symbol of "life," and in the other a scepter. From the head of the god proceed jets of fire, and on each side of him is an Utchat, which is provided with human hands and arms. The god stands upon an oval, within which are figures of a lion, two serpents, a jackal, a crocodile, a scorpion, a hippopotamus, and a turtle. Below this relief are five rows of figures of gods and mythological scenes, many of which are taken from the vignettes of the Book of the Dead. The gods and goddesses are for the most part solar deities who were believed to be occupied at all times in overcoming the powers of darkness, and they were sculptured on the Stele that the sight of them might terrify the fiends and prevent them from coming nigh unto the place where it was set up. There is not a god of any importance whose figure is not on it, and there is not a demon, or evil animal, or reptile who is not depicted upon it in a vanquished state.

The texts inscribed upon the Stele are as interesting as the figures of the gods, and relate to events which were believed to have taken place in the lives of Isis, Horus, etc. The first composition is called the "Chapter of the incantation of the Cat," and contains an address to Ra, who is besought to come to his daughter, for she has been bitten by a scorpion; the second composition, which is called simply "another Chapter," has contents somewhat similar to those of the first. The third text is addressed to the "Old Man who becometh young in his season, the Aged One who maketh himself a child again." The fourth and following texts contain a narrative of the troubles of Isis which were caused by the malice of Set, and of her wanderings from city to city in the Delta, in the neighborhood of the Papyrus Swamps. The principal incident is the death of her son Horus, which took place whilst she was absent in a neighboring city, and was caused by the bite of a scorpion; in spite of all the care which Isis took in hiding her son, a scorpion managed to make its way into the presence of the boy, and it stung him until he died. When Isis came back and found her child's dead body she was distraught and frantic with grief, and was inconsolable until Nephthys came and advised her to appeal to Thoth, the lord of words of power, She did so straightway, and Thoth stopped the Boat of Millions of Years in which Ra, the Sun-god, sailed, and came down to earth in answer to her cry; Thoth had already provided her with the words of power which enabled her to raise up Osiris from the dead, and he now bestowed upon her the means of restoring Horus to life, by supplying her with a series of incantations of irresistible might.

These Isis recited with due care, and in the proper tone of voice, and the poison was made to go forth from the body of Horus, and his strength was renewed, his heart once more occupied its throne, and all was well with him. Heaven and earth rejoiced at the sight of the restoration of the heir of Osiris, and the gods were filled with peace and content.

The whole Stele on which these texts and figures are found is nothing but a talisman, or a gigantic amulet engraved with magical forms of gods and words of power, and it was, undoubtedly, placed in some conspicuous place in a courtyard or in a house to protect the building and its inmates from the attacks of hostile beings, both visible and invisible, and its power was believed to be invincible. The person who had been stung or bitten by a scorpion or any noxious beast or reptile was supposed to recite the incantations which Thoth had given to Isis, and which had produced such excellent results, and the Egyptians believed that because these words had on one occasion restored the dead to life, they would, whensoever they were uttered in a suitable tone of voice, and with appropriate gestures and ceremonies, never fail to produce a like effect. A knowledge of the gods and of the magical texts on the Stele was thought to make its possessor master of all the powers of heaven, and of earth, and of the Underworld.