VIII. 1. For nothing reasonless, or [purely] fabulous, or from [mere] superstition, as some suppose, has been incorporated into the foundation of the sacred operations, but some things have moral and needful causes, while others are not without a share in the embellishment of science and physics,—as, for instance, in the case of the onion.
2. [The story] that Diktys, 1 the nursling of Isis, 2 fell into the river and was drowned, in trying to catch the onions with his hands, 3 [is] utterly incredible.
3. The priests, however, keep themselves pure of the onion, and treat it hardly, being [ever] on the watch against it, because it is the only thing whose nature is to be well nourished and to flourish when the moons a-wane.
Its food 4 for neither fast nor feast,—neither for the former in that it makes those feeding 5 on it thirst, while for the latter it makes them weep.
4. And in like manner also they consider the sow an unholy animal, because it seems to be covered especially when the moon is on the wane, while the bodies of those who drink its milk burst forth 6 into leprosy 7 and scabrous roughnesses.
5. And the tale (logos) they tell after once only 1 sacrificing and eating pig at the full-moon—[namely] that Typhon when pursuing pig towards full-moon found the wooden coffin in which the body of Osiris lay dead, and scattered it in pieces 2—they do not all receive, thinking it is a trifling mis-hearing [of the true tale] like many more. 3
6. But they say their ancients so protected themselves against softness [of living] and extravagance and agreeable sensations, that they said a slab was set up in the holy place at Thebes with deprecations in-lettered on it against Meinis 4 the King, who first changed the Egyptians from the way of life without riches and without needs and plain.
7. Moreover, Technactis, father of Bocchoris, 5 is said, when marching on the Arabs, 6 when his baggage was delayed, 7 to have used with joy the food nearest at hand, and afterwards to have fallen into deep sleep on a bed of straw, 8 and so embraced frugality; and in
consequence of this [he is said] to have execrated the Meinian, and, with the approval of the priests, to have graven his execration on stone.
271:1 Diktys = the Netter. In other myth-cycles Diktys was son of Poseidon, and is often called simply the Fisher.
271:2 Cf. xvi., xvii.
271:3 ἐπιδρασσόμενον. The Fisher-soul, therefore, presumably fell out of the celestial boat or baris of Isis, and the myth may not be quite so ἀπίθανον as Plutarch would have us think. Cf. xvii. 3. Ordinary onions do not grow in rivers.
271:4 Or “fit”—πρόσφορον.
271:5 τοὺς προσφερομένους—a word-play on “food.”
271:6 ἐξανθεῖ—lit., “flower.”
271:7 λεπρὰν—that which makes the skin scaly and rough (λεπρὸς, as opposed to λεῖος, smooth); there being also, I believe, a mystical under-meaning in it all.
272:1 Apparently once a year.
272:2 Cf. xviii. 1.
272:3 This makes us doubt whether there may not be a number of similar “mis-hearings” in the myth as handed on by Plutarch.
272:4 Probably this should be Μνεῦις (Mnevis), the sacred black bull, venerated as the symbol of the ka of Rā, and so it may contain some mystical allusion. Cf. xxxiii. 5.
272:5 τέχνακτις is, perhaps, a word-play on τέχ (√τεκ, τίκτω), “creative” or “generative,” and ἀκτίς, “ray”; while βοκχόρις may also be a play—such as, if one is allowed to speculate wildly, βοῦς, “kine,” and χορός, “dance,” reflecting the celestial βουκόλος or Cowherd.
272:6 It is to be noticed that there was an Arab nome in Egypt, and that Egypt was mapped out into a mystic body; and further, that the different surrounding nations were regarded as representative each of certain powers.
272:7 Or it may mean “when his filth delayed him,” and so contain a mystical implication.
272:8 ἐπὶ στιβάδος. It may also mean “on the way.”