Page images



into the origin and causes of which the learned have hitherto been unable to penetrate. Ignorant and savage nations, however, have always leaned more or less towards fetichism, a form of superstition still existing in Africa. Whatever is supposed capable of conferring a benefit, or inflicting an injury, they exalt into a god. The cow is adored from gratitude, because it bestows milk; the lion and the crocodile from fear, because they carry death in their jaws. Similar motives gave rise to the worship of the serpent, and all the other noxious creatures which have been deified by superstition. This species of idolatry,

other created things, is traced to an obscure persuasion of the universal presence of God :

." The whole system of heathen mythology, all that strange and complicated mass which formed the religion of so many generations and countries, was only held together by this principle, was only rendered, in any measure, capable of controlling the minds of its votaries by this single particle which it retained of divine truth, — by this belief, which it encouraged and illustrated, which amid all its grossness and falsehoods it confirmed, - that God is of necessity every where, that nothing takes place without the intervention of the Deity, — that to forget his presence, is to forget that he exists. It was thus that both the earth and the air, and the fathomless depths of the sea, became filled, in their imaginations, with living powers. Not a fountain sprung in its beauty from the cleft rock but it was hallowed with the name of Deity. Not a glade of the forest was visited, when the new spring had filled it with fragrance, and awakened its buds, but every green and bowery tree was viewed with awe, as the sanctuary of a god. Did the winds blow hoarsely from their caves ? They were believed to breathe the living voices of divine spirits. Was the lofty tower or monument struck with the thunderbolt, who believed not that it was the shaft of the God of gods ? Even the seasons changed not, it was felt, without the presiding power of the Divinity. The hours performed their harmonious rounds as living spirits; and when the bright rainbow girdled the storm cloud, what eye was not raised to heaven with a worshipping glance — who believed not that the dewy web veiled a Deity in its folds ?" - P. 365.



still prevalent in Hindoostan, was in all probability the original religion of Egypt; where, on the first dawn of civilisation, the priests, even if their interests had allowed them to conceive the desire, found it too widely spread and too deeply rooted to be overthrown. But it was more congruous with their crafty and selfish character to give it a place in their system, in which a variety of jarring creeds, suited to the capacities of those to whom they were revealed, seem to have been jumbled together. To the gross apprehensions of the vulgar, the bull, the cow, the crocodile, the ichneumon, the cat, were so many deities ; while the initiated, on the other hand, admitted behind the veil of symbol and allegory, if they did not altogether despise these terrestrial gods, regarded them only as so many vessels animated by distinct emanations from the universal soul. Such, at least, is the history of the establishment of Brahminism in India. The propagators of the new religion, finding they could not subdue the attachment to the ancient superstitions, in which the spirits of the mountains, the rivers, trees, plants, animals, and the generative and destructive powers, were honoured with certain rites and ceremonies, engrafted their own system upon the old trunk, and allowed both to flourish together; but the Brahmins, while they encourage the inferior castes to worship the bull, as the representative of Siva, by no means pay it adoration themselves. All the other sacred animals of India are in the same manner regarded by the learned in their proper light; and this seems to be an exact counterpart of what

[blocks in formation]

took place in Egypt, where the god of the Ombites was considered by the priests merely as the symbol of time, which, like that voracious animal, is devouring and destructive. The crocodile, however, as well as the hippopotamus and the ass, was also a symbol of Typhon. But who was Typhon ? Identical, perhaps, with Soukos, Kronos, Saturn, the universal enemy of men and gods, who has destroyed not only Osiris, but all his brethren and offspring, and now sits among their ruined fanes, gradually crumbling away their ruins, and scattering them over the sands of the desert.

CCCCXII. Having completed the examination of these ruins, we dropped slowly down the river, against a contrary wind, to Hajjar Silsilis, where, landing at the foot of the eastern mountains, we found the most extensive and extraordinary quarries in Egypt, perhaps in the world. Though the excavations begin not immediately, marks of the tool are every where visible, and we therefore examined carefully each rent and opening in the mountain. No monuments existing above ground convey so grand an idea of the labours of the Egyptians as these quarries, the most remarkable of all their works. Passages, wide as streets, cut in the rock, rising perpendicularly to the height of fifty or sixty feet on either side, sometimes straight, at other times winding, extend from the brink of the river into the very bowels of the mountain ; where the rock has been cut away, and spaces cleared equal in dimensions to the greatest



squares in London. Towards the north are seen innumerable chambers, like the dwelling-places of the Titans, and prodigious colonnades, extending round the base of the mountains. The rough hewn irregular roof is supported by huge square or polygonal columns of solid rock, in many cases eighty or a hundred feet in circumference. On the slope of the mountain overlooking the river I found the sphynx described by Hamilton, but its head has been broken off. The crio-sphynxes I could nowhere discover. Enormous blocks of stone, completely severed from the mountain, are placed upon smaller ones, ready to be removed; and others, still more vast, had been cut and carried

away ; the places whence they were taken exceeding forty feet in length. The Arab who accompanied me, astonished at the extent and depth of the quarries, which would have furnished materials for all the cities of the East, exclaimed, “ Wallah ! (by God) if those kafirs had existed up to the present time, they would have cut away every vestige of the mountain !”

CCCCXIII. I remained several hours among these solitary rocks, admiring the deep narrow passages, resembling the streets of a great city — the endless excavations – the prodigious mounds thrown forth from the quarries — the tablets — the antique inscriptions — the huge blocks of stone. In the ravines on the eastern side of the mountain I for some time lost my attendant, despatched in search of a particular avenue loosely indicated by a former

[blocks in formation]

traveller, while I myself continued my researches in another direction. Some time after I found him among the rocks, staring, pale, a ludicrous personification of terror; and on inquiring the reason, he replied that in a small cavity of the hill he had suddenly encountered an animal which he had mistaken for a lion. Fear chained him to the spot. His eyes grew dim (perhaps he closed them); but finding the monster make no attempt to devour him, he ventured to regard it more narrowly, and found it to be a camel, lying down eating straw among the rocks.

CCCCXIV. The day drawing towards its close, we crossed to the western bank, where numerous quarries and small rock temples are likewise found, apparently the more ancient works. Here, near the northern extremity of the strait, we observed, in one of the rude hypogea, a few remarkable groups and figures. The temple, consisting of two chambers, a greater and a less, is entered by five doorways, in the spaces between which deep niches contain a number of figures in alto relievo, too much mutilated to allow of our determining whether they were gods or mortals. In the adytum, as in the Nubian rock temples, is a large niche containing seven figures, represented standing on a stone bench, originally executed coarsely, and now wantonly mutilated. On the northern wall I observed Isis, Osiris, Bouto, Athor, and other deities, moving in the train of Anubis. On the side of one of the doorways is a human figure, with what seemed to be a horse's

« PreviousContinue »