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The Myths of Aset


Horus´ Childhood

This is one of the stories in the Delta Cycle, a group of tales from the mythical period called the 'First Time', when the gods wandered upon the earth and ruled it. They are stories about the childhood of Horus as he grew up, hidden and protected by his mother Isis in Chemmis, an area of marshes in the Lower Egypt northeast delta, said to be near the ancient city of Buto. His childhood was dangerous and he was exposed for all kinds of dangers. Already in the 5th Dynasty there are different versions of these stories. Spells for snake bites are found in the Pyramid Texts from this time, and two large fragments have been preserved during the Late Period, written on various supports for statues of Horus as curative spells against poisonous bites. Obviously they stem from earlier sources, and they are also to be found on medical papyrii.




Horus is Bitten!

The spells included in this story were used in daily life to cure snake bites. It is played out in a mundane setting until Isis realizes her son is in mortal danger. At that point it becomes the concern of the whole cosmos and the gods come down to earth to intervene. Isis was pregnant with the son of Osiris and gave birth to him in the marshes of Chemmis in Lower Egypt, where Thoth had told her to hide. She hid Horus in the papyri and lotus thickets to stop Set from finding them. There she had to leave him to go begging for food. But for the third time Seth found out about them, and as he could not pass unseen through the brushes, he transformed himself into a snake. That way he could reach the child, sting it and then get quickly away.

One day, when Isis returned to their hidingplace, she found her child lying lifeless on his back and she could hardly hear his heartbeat. She did not know what kind of illness had struck her son, and when she began working her magic, she found that her power had deserted her. She was alone, her husband was dead, none of the gods were there to help her and she despaired. She took Horus in her arms and ran to the village nearby. The fishermen who lived there took pity on her and tried everything they could to heal the child, but nothing helped. Then someone brought a wise woman who examined Horus closely, consoled Isis and said that it must be Seth who had disguised himself as a snake or a scorpion and poisoned the child. Isis understood that the woman was right and that this must somehow be the doings of Seth and her anger rose within her.


Shaking Heaven and Earth

She let out a great wail:
'Horus has been bitten!
O Re! a scion of yours has been bitten!
Horus has been bitten!
The heir to your heir, a direct link with the kingship of Shu,
Horus has been bitten!
The babe of Chemmis, the infant of the House of the Prince,
Horus has been bitten!
The beautiful golden child, the innocent orphan child
Horus has been bitten!
The son of the "Beneficent Being", born of the "Tearful One",
Horus has been bitten!
Him I watched over so anxiously, for I foresaw that he would avenge his father....'




Her sister Nephtys came crying and was heard all over the marshes. Serqet cried:
'Pray, tell what has happened to Horus the son of Osiris? Ah Isis, my sister! Beseech heaven and the divine crew will bring Re´s boat to a standstill and the cosmic wind will cease to blow for the boat of Re while Horus lies on his side.'
Isis raised her voice and cried to the boat of 'millions of years' so loud that the earth shook and the sunboat stopped its course, for Isis knew the secret name of Ra, the King of the Gods. When he heard Isis cry and noticed that his sunboat had stopped so that there was no more light on the lands, he sent Thoth to find out what had happened. Isis told Thoth that Horus had been poisoned by Seth and that she wished she had died together with Osiris. She had lived only to see Horus grow up and take revenge on Seth for Osiris´death, but now there was no reason for her to live any longer.

Thoth consoled her:
'What is the matter, O Isis, you who are so divine and skilful and know your spell? Surely nothing has gone amiss with Horus? An assurance of his safety is in the boat of Re. I have just come from the barge. The sun is in its´place of yesterday so that all has become dark and the light has been driven away until Horus recovers his health - to the delight of his mother Isis.'
Then he began to utter his powerful words:
'Back, O Poison! You are exorcised by the spell of Re himself. It is the speech of the Greatest God which turns you away!
And the poison was driven out from Horus´ body and he was brought back to life again.
But Isis and the child had to stay in the marshlands until Horus was grown enough to revenge his father and take the throne back from Seth. To make sure they were safe, Thoth ordered the people of the marshes and all birds and animals who lived there to keep watch over them. And while Isis rejoiced, Thoth returned to the heavens and to the sunboat:
'Rejoice, O Re of the horizon. The life of your 'son' Horus has been saved!'

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