The Legend Of RA And ISIS

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This Legend is found written in the hieratic character upon a papyrus

preserved in Turin, and it illustrates a portion of the preceding

Legend. We have seen that Ra instructed Thoth to draw up a series of

spells to be used against venomous reptiles of all kinds, and the reader

will perceive from the following summary that Ra had good reason for

doing this. The Legend opens with a list of the titles of Ra, the

“self-created god,” creator of heaven, earth, breath of life, fire,

gods, men, beasts, cattle, reptiles, feathered fowl, and fish, the King

of gods and men, to whom cycles of 120 years are as years, whose

manifold names are unknown even by the gods. The text continues: “Isis

had the form of a woman, and knew words of power, but she was disgusted

with men, and she yearned for the companionship of the gods and the

spirits, and she meditated and asked herself whether, supposing she had

the knowledge of the Name of Ra, it was not possible to make herself as

great as Ra was in heaven and on the earth? Meanwhile Ra appeared in

heaven each day upon his throne, but he had become old, and he dribbled

at the mouth, and his spittle fell on the ground. One day Isis took some

of the spittle and kneaded up dust in it, and made this paste into the

form of a serpent with a forked tongue, so that if it struck anyone the

person struck would find it impossible to escape death. This figure she

placed on the path on which Ra walked as he came into heaven after his

daily survey of the Two Lands (_i.e._ Egypt). Soon after this Ra rose

up, and attended by his gods he came into heaven, but as he went along

the serpent drove its fangs into him. As soon as he was bitten Ra felt

the living fire leaving his body, and he cried out so loudly that his

voice reached the uttermost parts of heaven. The gods rushed to him in

great alarm, saying, “What is the matter?” At first Ra was speechless,

and found himself unable to answer, for his jaws shook, his lips

trembled, and the poison continued to run through every part of his

body. When he was able to regain a little strength, he told the gods

that some deadly creature had bitten him, something the like of which he

had never seen, something which his hand had never made. He said, “Never

before have I felt such pain; there is no pain worse than this.” Ra then

went on to describe his greatness and power, and told the listening gods

that his father and mother had hidden his name in his body so that no

one might be able to master him by means of any spell or word of power.

In spite of this something had struck him, and he knew not what it was.

“Is it fire?” he asked. “Is it water? My heart is full of burning fire,

my limbs are shivering, shooting pains are in all my members.” All the

gods round about him uttered cries of lamentation, and at this moment

Isis appeared. Going to Ra she said, “What is this, O divine father?

What is this? Hath a serpent bitten thee? Hath something made by thee

lifted up its head against thee? Verily my words of power shall

overthrow it; I will make it depart in the sight of thy light.” Ra then

repeated to Isis the story of the incident, adding, “I am colder than

water, I am hotter than fire. All my members sweat. My body quaketh.

Mine eye is unsteady. I cannot look on the sky, and my face is bedewed

with water as in the time of the Inundation.”[1] Then Isis said,

“Father, tell me thy name, for he who can utter his own name.

Ra replied, “I am the maker of heaven and earth. I knit together the
mountains and whatsoever liveth on them. I made the waters. I made
Mehturit[1] to come into being. I made Kamutef.[2] I made heaven, and
the two hidden gods of the horizon, and put souls into the gods. I open
my eyes, and there is light; I shut my eyes, and there is darkness. I
speak the word[s], and the waters of the Nile appear. I am he whom the
gods know not. I make the hours. I create the days. I open the year. I
make the river [Nile]. I create the living fire whereby works in the
foundries and workshops are carried out. I am Khepera in the morning, Ra
at noon, and Temu in the evening.” Meanwhile the poison of the serpent
was coursing through the veins of Ra, and the enumeration of his works
afforded the god no relief from it. Then Isis said to Ra, “Among all the
things which thou hast named to me thou hast not named thy name. Tell me
thy name, and the poison shall come forth from thee.” Ra still
hesitated, but the poison was burning in his blood, and the heat thereof
was stronger than that of a fierce fire. At length he said, “Isis shall
search me through, and my name shall come forth from my body and pass
into hers.” Then Ra hid himself from the gods, and for a season his
throne in the Boat of Millions of Years was empty. When the time came
for the heart of the god to pass into Isis, the goddess said to Horus,
her son, “The great god shall bind himself by an oath to give us his two
eyes (i.e. the sun and the moon).” When the great god had yielded up
his name Isis pronounced the following spell: “Flow poison, come out of
Ra. Eye of Horus, come out of the god, and sparkle as thou comest
through his mouth. I am the worker. I make the poison to fall on the
ground. The poison is conquered. Truly the name of the great god hath
been taken from him. Ra liveth! The poison dieth! If the poison live Ra
shall die.” These were the words which Isis spoke, Isis the great lady,
the Queen of the gods, who knew Ra by his own name.