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Apt, the First Great Mother

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Apt, the First Great Mother
Six of the total seven were represented by zootypes, and Horus was personalized in the form of a child. Evidence for a soul of life in the dark was furnished by the star. Hence the Khabsu in Egyptian. This was an elemental power of darkness divinized in Sut, the author of astronomy. Evidence for a soul of life in the water was furnished by the fish that was eaten for food. This elemental power was divinized in the fish-god Sebek and in Ichthus, the mystical fish. Evidence for a soul of life in the earth was also furnished in food and in periodic renewal. The elemental power was divinized in Seb, the father of food derived from the ground, the plants, and the goose. Evidence for a soul of life in the sun, represented by the uræus-serpent, was furnished by the vivifying solar heat, the elemental power of which was divinized in Ra. Evidence for a soul of life in blood was furnished by the incarnation, the elemental power of which was divinized in elder Horus, the eternal child. Six of these seven powers, we repeat, were represented by zootypes; the seventh was given the human image of the child, and later of Atum the man. Thus the earliest gods of Egypt were developed from the elements, and were not derived from the expanded ghosts of dead men. Otherwise stated, the ancestral spirits were not primary.

Dr. Rink, writing of the Eskimo, has said that with them the whole visible world is ruled by supernatural powers or “owners,” each of whom holds sway within certain limits, and is called his Inua (viz., its or his Inuk, which word signifies “man” and also owner or inhabitant). This is cited by Herbert Spencer as most conclusive evidence that the agent or power was originally a human ghost, because the power may be expressed as the Inuk, or its man—“the man in it—that is, the man’s ghost in it.” The writer did not think of the long way the race had to travel before “the power” could be expressed by “its man,” or how late was the anthropological mode of representing the forces of external nature. “The man” as type of power belongs to a far later mode of expression. Neither man nor woman nor child was among the earliest representatives of the elemental forces in external nature. By the bye, the Inuk is the power, and in Egyptian the root Nukh denotes the power or force of a thing, the potency of the male, as the bull; thence Nukhta is the strong man or giant. Sut was a Suten-Nakht. Horus was a


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Suten-Nakht, but neither of them was derived from man. The elements themselves were the earliest superhuman powers, and these were thought of and imaged by superhuman equivalents. The power of darkness was not represented by its man, or the ghost of man. Its primal power, which was that of swallowing all up, was imaged by the devouring dragon. The force of wind was not represented by its man, but by its roaring lion; the drowning power of water by the wide-jawed crocodile, the power of lightning or of sunstroke by its serpent-sting, the spirit of fire by the fiery-spirited ape. In this way all the elemental forces were equated and objectified before the zootype of Sign-language was changed for the human figure or any one of them attained its “man” as the representative of its power. The earliest type of the man, even as male power, was the bull, the bull of his mother, who was a cow, or hippopotamus. Neither god nor goddess ever had been man or woman or the ghost of either in the mythology of Egypt, the oldest in the world. The Great Mother of all was imaged like the totemic mother, as a cow, a serpent, a sow, a crocodile, or other zootype, ages before she was represented as a woman or the ghost of one. It is the same with the powers that were born of her as male, six of which were portrayed by means of zootypes before there was any one in the likeness of a man, woman, or child. And these powers were divinized as the primordial gods. The Egyptians had no god who was derived from a man. They told Herodotus that “in eleven thousand three hundred and forty years [as he reckons] no god had ever actually become a man” (B. II, 142). Therefore Osiris did not originate as a man. Atum, for one, was a god in the likeness of a man. But he was known as a god who did not himself become a man. On the other hand, no human ancestor ever became a deity. It was the same in Egypt as in Inner Africa; the spirits of the human ancestors always remained human, the glorified never became divinities. The nearest approach to a deity of human origin is the god in human likeness. The elder Horus is the divine child in a human shape. The god Atum in name and form is the perfect man. But both child and man are entirely impersonal—that is, neither originated in an individual child or personal man. Neither was a human being divinized. It is only the type that was anthropomorphic.

The two categories of spirits are separately distinguished in the Hall of Righteousness, when the Osiris pleads that he has made “oblations to the gods and funeral offerings to the departed” (Rit., ch. 125). And again, in the chapter following, the “oblations are presented to the gods and the sacrificial meals to the glorified” (ch. 126).


A single citation from the chapter of the Ritual that is said on arriving at the Judgment Hall will furnish a brief epitome of the Egyptian religion as it culminated in the Osirian cult. “I have propitiated the great god with that which he loveth; I have given bread to the hungry, water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked, a boat to the shipwrecked. I have made oblations to the gods and funeral offerings to the departed,” or to the ancestral spirits (Rit., ch. 125). The statement shows that the divine service consisted
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of good works, and primarily of charity. The gods and the glorified to whom worship was paid are: (1) The Great One God (Osiris); (2) the Nature-Powers, or Gods; and (3) the Spirits of the Departed. But the order in development was: (1) The Elemental Forces, or Animistic Nature-Powers; (2) the Ancestral Spirits; (3) the One Great God over all, who was imaged phenomenally in the Kamite trinity of Asar-Isis in matter, Horus in soul, Ra in spirit, which three were blended in the Great One God. In the Hymn to Osiris (line 6) the ancestral spirits are likewise discriminated from the divine powers or gods. When Osiris goes forth in peace by command of Seb, the God of Earth, “the mighty ones
bow the head; the ancestors are in prayer.” These latter are the commonalty of the dead, the human ancestors in general, distinguished from the gods or powers of the elements that were divinized in the astronomical mythology. In one of the texts the “spirits of the king,” the ever-living Mer-en-Ra, are set forth as an object of religious regard superior in status to that of the gods, by which we understand the ancestral spirits are here exalted above the elemental powers as the objects of propitiation and invocation. The Egyptian gods and the glorified were fed on the same diet in the fields of divine harvest, but are entirely distinct in their origin and character. The glorified are identifiable as spirits that once were human who have risen from the dead in a glorified body as Sahus. The gods are spirits or powers that never had been human. We know the great ones, female or male, from the beginning as elemental forces that were always extant in nature. These were first recognized, represented, and divinized as superhuman. The ghost, when recognized, was human still, however changed and glorified. But the Mother-earth had never been a human mother, nor had the serpent Rannut, nor Nut, the celestial wateress. The god of the Pole as Anup, the moon god Taht, the sun god Ra, had never been spirits in a human guise. They were divinized, and therefore worshipped or propitiated as the superhuman powers in nature, chiefly as the givers of light, food, and drink, and as keepers of time and season. These, then, are the goddesses and gods that were created by the human mind as powers that were impersonal and non-human. Hence they had to be envisaged with the aid of living types. Spirits once human manifest as ghosts in human form. It follows that the gods were primary, and that worship, or extreme reverence, was first addressed to them and not to the ancestral spirits, which, according to H. Spencer and his followers, had no objective existence. Neither is there any sense in saying the Egyptian deities were conceived in animal forms. This is to miss the meaning of Sign-language altogether. “Conception” has nought to do with Horus being represented by a hawk, a crocodile, or a calf; Seb by a goose, Shu by a lion, Rannut by a serpent, Isis by a scorpion. The primary question is: Why were the goddesses and gods or powers presented under these totemic types, which preceded the anthrotype in the different modes of mythical representation? Three of the seven children born of the Great Mother have been traced in the portrait of Apt, the old first genetrix, as Sut the hippopotamus, Sebek the crocodile, and Shu the lion. But there was an earlier phase of representation with her two children
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Sut and Horus, who were born twins. It is the same in the Kamite mythology as in external nature. The two primary elements were those of darkness and light: Sut was the power of darkness, Horus the power of light. In one representation the two elements were imaged by means of the black bird of Sut and the white bird, or golden hawk, of Horus. Thus we can identify two elemental powers, as old as night and day, which are primeval in universal mythology; and these two powers, or animistic souls, were divinized as the two gods Sut and Horus with the two birds of darkness and light, the black vulture and the gold hawk depicted back to back as their two representative types or personal totems.

The beginning with these two primal powers is repeated in the mythology of the Blacks on the other side of the world. With them the crow and hawk (the eagle-hawk) are equivalent to these two birds of darkness and light; and according to the native traditions, the eagle-hawk and crow were first among the ancestors of the human race. That is as the first two of the elemental powers which became the non-human ancestors in mythology. They are also known as the creators who divided the Murray Blacks into two classes or brotherhoods whose totems were the eagle-hawk and crow, and who now shine as stars in the sky. (Brough Smyth, v. I, 423 and 431.) This is the same point of departure in the beginning as in the Kamite mythos with the first two elemental powers, viz., those of darkness and light. These two birds are also equated by the black cockatoo and the white cockatoo as the two totems of the Mûkjarawaint in Western Australia. The two animistic souls or spirits of the two primary elements can be paralleled in the two souls that are assigned to man or the Manes in the traditions of certain aboriginal races, called the dark shade and the light shade, the first two souls of the seven in the Ritual. These, as Egyptian, are two of the seven elements from which the enduring soul and total personality of man is finally reconstituted in Amenta after death. They are the dark shade, called the Khabsu, and the light shade, called the Sahu. A Zulu legend relates that in the beginning there were two mothers in a bed of reeds who brought forth two children, one black, the other white. The woman in the bed of reeds was Mother-earth, who had been duplicated in the two mothers who brought forth in space when this was first divided into night and day. Another version of the mythical beginning with a black and white pair of beings was found by Duff Macdonald among the natives of Central Africa. The black man, they say, was crossing a bridge, and as he looked round he was greatly astonished to find that a white man was following him (Africana, vol. I, p. 75). These are the powers of darkness and daylight, who were portrayed in Egypt as the Sut-and-Horus twins, one of whom was the black Sut, the other the white Horus, and the two “men” were elementals. The natives on the shores of Lake Rudolf say that when it thunders a white man is born. But the white man thus born is the flash of light or lightning imaged by an anthropomorphic figure of speech.



The aborigines of Victoria likewise say the moon was a black fellow before he went up into the sky to become light, or white. Horus in Egypt was the white man as an elemental power, the white one of
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the Sut-and-Horus twins, who is sometimes represented by an eye that is white, whereas the eye of Sut was black. In the mythos Horus is divinized as the white god. The children of Horus, who are known to mythology as the solar race, are the Khuti. These are the white spirits, the children of light. The solar race at last attained supremacy as chief of all the elemental powers, and in the eschatology the Khuti are the glorious ones. The Khu-sign is a beautiful white bird. This signifies a spirit, and the spirit may be a human ghost, or it may be the spirit of light, otherwise light imaged as a spirit; thence Horus the spirit of light in the mythology, or the glorified human spirit, called the Khu, in the eschatology. The symbols of whiteness, such as the white down of birds, pipeclay, chalk, flour, the white stone, and other things employed in the mysteries of the black races and in their mourning for the dead, derive their significance from white being emblematic of spirit, or the spirits which originated in the element of light being the white spirit. The turning of black men into white is a primitive African way of describing the transformation of the mortal into spirit. It is the same in the mysteries of the Aleutians, who dance in a state of nudity with white eyeless masks upon their faces, by which a dance of spirits is denoted. With the blacks of Australia the secret “wisdom” is the same as that of the dark race in Africa. According to Buckley, when the black fellow was buried the one word “Animadiate,” was uttered, which denoted that he was gone to be made a white man. But this did not mean a European. Initiates in the totemic mysteries were made into white men by means of pipeclay and birds’ down, or white masks, the symbols of spirits in the religious ceremonies. This mode of transformation was not intended as a compliment to the pale-face from Europe. Neither did white spirits and black originate with seeing the human ghost. Horus is the white spirit in the light half of the lunation, Sut in the dark half is “the black fellow,” because they represent the elements of light and darkness that were divinized in mythology. Hence the eternal contention of the twins Sut and Horus in the moon. It is common in the African mysteries for the spirits to be painted or arrayed in white, and in the custom of pipeclaying the face, on purpose to cause dismay in battle, the white was intended to suggest spirits, and thus to strike the enemy with fear and terror. Also, when spirits are personated in the mysteries of the Arunta and other tribes of Australian aborigines, they are represented in white by means of pipeclay and the white down of birds. It is very pathetic, this desire and strenuous endeavour of the black races, from Central Africa to Egypt, or to the heart of Australia, to become white, as the children of light, and to win and wear the white robe as a vesture of spiritual purity, if only represented by a white mask or coating of chalk, pipeclay, or white feathers. Many a white man has lost his life and been made up into medicine by the black fellows on account of his white complexion being the same with that assigned to the good or white spirits of light. In a legend of creation preserved among the Kabinda it is related that God made all men black. Then he went across a great river and called upon all men to follow him. The wisest, the best, the bravest of those who heard the invitation
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plunged into the wide river, and the water washed them white. These were the ancestors of white men. The others were afraid to venture. They remained behind in their old world, and became the ancestors of black men. But to this day the white men come (as spirits) to the bank on the other side of the river and echo the ancient cry of “Come thou hither!” saying, “Come; it is better over here!” (Kingsley, M. H., Travels in West Africa, pp. 430, 431.) These are the white spirits, called the white men by the black races, who originated in the representation of light as an elemental spirit, the same term being afterwards applied to the white bird, the white god, and the white man. This legend is also to be found in Egypt. As the Ritual shows, there was an opening day of creation, designated the day of “Come thou to me.” The call was made by Ra, from the other side of the water, to Osiris in the darkness of Amenta—that is, from Ra as the white spirit to Osiris the black in the eschatology. But there was an earlier application of the saying in the solar mythos. In the beginning, says the best-known Egyptian version, the sun god Temu, whose name denotes the creator god, having awoke in the Nnu from a state of negative existence, appeared, as it were, upon the other side of the water, a figure of sunrise, and suddenly cried across the water, “Come thou to me!” (as spirits). Then the lotus unfolded its petals, and up flew the hawk, which represented the sun in mythology and a soul in the eschatology. Thus Tum the father of souls, being established in his spiritual supremacy, calls upon the race of men to come to him across the water in the track of sunrise or of the hawk that issued forth as Horus from the lotus. From such an origin in the course of time all nature would be peopled with “black spirits and white,” as animistic entities, or as the children of Sut and Horus; as the black vultures or crows of the one, and the white vultures or gold hawks of the other. Thus we have traced a soul of darkness and a soul of light that became Egyptian gods in the twin powers Sut and Horus, and were called the dark shade and the light of other races, the two first souls that were derived as elementals. The anima or breath of life was one of the more obvious of the six “souls” whose genesis was visible in external nature. This was the element assigned to Shu, the god of breathing force. In the chapter for giving the breath of life, to the deceased (Rit., ch. 55) the speaker, in the character of Shu, says: “I am Shu, who conveys the breezes, or breathings. I give air to these younglings as I open my mouth.” These younglings are the children whose souls are thus derived from Shu, when the soul and breath were one, and Shu was this one of the elemental powers divinized as male.

Messrs. Spencer and Gillen have shown that up to the present time the Arunta tribes of Central Australia do not ascribe the begettal of a human soul to the male parent. They think the male may serve a purpose in preparing the way for conception, but they have not yet got beyond the incorporation of a soul from the elements of external nature, such as wind or water—that is, the power of the air or of water, which was imaged in the elemental deity. Spirit children, derivable from the air, are supposed to be especially fond of travelling in a whirlwind, and on seeing one of these approaching a native woman who does not wish to have a child


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will flee as if for her life, to avoid impregnation. (Native Tribes, p. 125.) This doctrine of a soul supposed to be incorporated from the elements is so ancient in Egypt as to have been almost lost sight of or concealed from view beneath the mask of mythology. The doctrine, however, was Egyptian. The insufflation of the female by the spirit of air was the same when the goddess Neith was impregnated by the wind. With the Arunta tribes it is the ordinary woman who is insufflated by the animistic soul of air. In Egypt, from the earliest monumental period, the female was represented mythically as the Great Mother Neith, whose totem, so to call it, was the white vulture; and this bird of maternity was said to be impregnated by the wind. “Gignuntur autem hunc in modum. Cum amore concipiendi vultur exarserit, vulvam ad Boream aperiens, ab eo velut comprimitur per dies quinque” (Hor-Apollo, B. I, 11).

This kind of spirit not only entered the womb of Neith, or of the Arunta female; it also went out of the human body in a whirlwind. Once when a great Fijian chieftain passed away a whirlwind swept across the lagoon. An old man who saw it covered his mouth with his hand and said in an awestruck whisper, “There goes his spirit.” This was the passing of a soul in the likeness of an elemental power, the spirit of air that was imaged in the god Shu, the spirit that impregnated the virgin goddess Neith. According to a mode of thinking in external things which belonged to spiritualism, so to say, in the animistic stage, the human soul had not then been specialized and did not go forth from the body as the Ka or human double. It was only a totemic soul affiliated to the power of wind, which came and went like the wind, as the breath of life. To quote the phrase employed by Messrs. Spencer and Gillen, a spirit-child was incarnated in the mother’s womb by the spirit of air. The doctrine is the same in the Christian phase, when the Holy Spirit makes its descent on Mary and insufflates her, with the dove for totem instead of some other type of breathing force or soul. There is likewise a survival of primitive doctrine when the Virgin Mary is portrayed in the act of inhaling the fragrance of the lily to procure the mystical conception of the Holy Child. This is a mode of inhaling the spirit breath, or anima, the same as in the mystery of the Arunta, but with the difference that the Holy Spirit takes the place of the spirit of air, otherwise that Ra, as source of soul, had superseded Shu, the breathing force. Such things will show how the most primitive simplicities of ancient times have supplied our modern religious mysteries.

We learn also from the Arunta tribes that it is a custom for the mother to affiliate her child thus incorporated (not incarnated) to the particular elemental power, as spirit of air or water, tree or earth, supposed to haunt the spot where she conceived or may have quickened. (N. T., pp. 124 and 128.) Thus the spirit-child is, or may be, a reincorporation of an Alcheringa ancestor, who as Egyptian is the elementary power divinized in the eschatology, and who is to be identified by the animal or plant which is the totemic type of either. Not that the animal or plant was supposed by the knowers to be transformed directly into a
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human being, but that the elemental power or superhuman spirit entered like the gust that insufflated the vulture of Neith or caused conception whether in the Arunta female or the Virgin Mary. The surroundings at the spot will determine the totem of the spirit and therefore of the spirit-child. Hence the tradition of the Churinga-Nanga being dropped at the place where the mother was impregnated by the totemic spirit, which, considering the sacred nature of the Churinga, was certainly a form of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of air rushed out of the gap between the hills; or it was at the water-hole, or near the sacred rock, or the totemic tree, that the mother conceived, and by such means the child is affiliated to the elemental power, the animistic spirit, the Alcheringa ancestor, as well as to the totemic group. The mother caught by the power of wind in the gap is the equivalent of divine Neith caught by the air god Shu and insufflated in the gorge of Neith. The element of life incorporated is the source of breath, or the spirit of air, which would have the same natural origin whether it entered the female in her human form, or into that of the bird, beast, fish, or reptile. It was the incorporation of an elemental spirit, whether of air, earth, water, fire, or vegetation.

In popular phraseology running water is called living water, and still water is designated dead. There is no motion in dead water, no life, no force, no spirit. Contrariwise, the motion of living water, the running spring or flowing inundation, is the force, and finally the soul of life in the element. Air was the breath of life, and therefore a soul of life was in the breeze. In the deserts of Central Africa the breeze of dawn and eve and the springs of water in the land are very life indeed and the givers of life itself, as they have been from the beginning. These, then, are two of the elements that were brought forth as nature powers by the earth, the original mother of life and all living things. When the supreme life-giving, life-sustaining power was imaged as a pouring forth of overflowing energy the solar orb became a figure of such a fountain-head or source. But an earlier type of this great welling forth was water. Hence Osiris personates the element of water as he who is shoreless. He is objectified as the water of renewal. His throne in heaven, earth, and Amenta is balanced upon water. Thus the primary element of nutriment has the first place to the last with the root-origin of life in water. Birth from the element of water was represented in the mysteries of Amenta by the rebirth in spirit from the water of baptism. It is as a birth of water that Child-Horus calls himself the primary power of motion. Also “the children of Horus” who stand on the papyrus plant or lotus are born of water in the new kingdom that was founded for the father by Horus the son. This too was based upon the water. Hence two of Horus’s children, Tuamutef and Kabhsenuf, are called the two fishes (Rit., ch. 113), and elsewhere the followers of Horus are the fishers. One of the two lakes in Paradise contained the water of life. It was designated the Lake of Sa, and one of the meanings of the word is spirit, another is soil or basis. It was a lake, so to say, of spiritual matter from which spirits were derived in germ as the Hammemat. This lake of


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