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The Gnostic Society Library

Thrice-Greatest Hermes - Volume 2

by G.R.S. Mead


XLI. 1. Those, however, who combine with the above [considerations] of the Physicists some of the Mathematic [doctrines] derived from star-lore, think that the solar cosmos is called Typhon and the lunar Osiris. 4

2. For [they think] that the Moon, in that its light is generative and moistening, is favourable both for breedings of animals and sproutings of plants; whereas the Sun, with untempered and harsh fire, burns and

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withers up [all] that are growing and blowing, and with fiery heat renders the major part of the earth entirely uninhabitable, and in many places utterly masters the Moon.

3. For which cause Egyptians always call Typhon Sēth, 1—that is, “that which oppresses and constrains by force.”

4. And they have a myth that Heracles is settled in the Sun and accompanies him in his revolutions, while Hermes does the same with the Moon.

5. For the [revolutions] of the Moon resemble works of reason (logos) and super-abundant wisdom, while those of the Sun are like penetrating strokes [given] with force and power. 2

6. Moreover, the Stoics say that the sun is kept burning and nourished from the sea, 3 whereas to the Moon the waters of springs and lakes send up a sweet and mild exhalation.

XLII. 1. The Egyptian myth runs that the death of Osiris took place on the seventeenth, when the full-moon is most conspicuously at the full.

2. Wherefore the Pythagoreans call this day also “Interception,” 4 and regard this number as expiable.

3. For the “sixteen” being square and the “eighteen” oblong 5—which alone of plane numbers happen to have their perimeters equal to the areas contained by them 6—the mean, “seventeen,” coming between them, intercepts and divorces them from one another, and divides

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the ratio of “nine” to “eight” 1 by being cut into unequal intervals.

4. And eight-and-twenty is the number of years which some say Osiris lived, and others that he reigned; 2 for this is the number of the lights of the Moon, and it rolls out its own circle in this number of days.

5. And at what they call the Burials of Osiris they cut the tree-trunk and make it into a crescent-shaped coffin, because the Moon, when it approaches the Sun, becomes crescent-shaped and hides itself away.

6. And the tearing of Osiris into fourteen pieces they refer enigmatically to the days in which the luminary wanes after full-moon up to new-moon.

7. And the day on which it first appears, escaping from his beams and passing by the Sun, they call “Imperfect Good.”

8. For Osiris is “Good-doer.” The name, indeed, means many things, but chiefly what they call “Might energising and good-doing.” And the other name of the God,—Omphis, Hermæus 3 says, means [also] when translated, “Benefactor.”

XLIII. 1. Moreover, they think that the risings of the Nile have a certain analogy with the lights of the Moon.

2. For the greatest [rising], about Elephantinē, is eight-and-twenty cubits, the same number as are the lights and measures of its monthly periods; and the least, about Mendes and Xoïs, is of six cubits, [analogous] to the half -moon; while the mean, about Memphis, when it is the right quantity, [is] of fourteen cubits, [analogous] to the full-moon.

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3. And [they consider] the Apis the animated image of Osiris, and that he is conceived whenever generative light from the Moon fastens on a cow in heat.

4. For which cause also many of the markings of the Apis—lights shading off into darks—resemble the configurations of the moon.

5. Moreover, on the new-moon of the month Phamenōth 1 they keep festival, calling it “Entrance” 2 of Osiris into the Moon, as it is the beginning of spring.

6. By thus placing the power of Osiris in the Moon, they mean that Isis consorts with him while being [at the same time] the cause of his birth. 3

7. For which cause also they call the Moon Mother of the cosmos, and think that she has a male-female nature,—for she is filled by the Sun and made pregnant, and again of herself sends forth and disseminates into the air generative principles.

8. For [they say] she does not always overmaster the destruction wrought by Typhon; 4 but, though frequently mastered, even when bound hand and foot she frees herself again by her generative power, and fights the way through to Horus.

9. And Horus is the cosmos surrounding the earth—not entirely exempt from destruction either, nor yet from generation.

XLIV. 1. Some, moreover, make out of the myth a riddle of the phenomena of eclipses also.

2. For the Moon is eclipsed at the full, when the Sun has the station opposite it, she entering the shadow of the earth,—just as they say Osiris [entered] the

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coffin. And she again conceals the Sun and causes him to disappear, on the thirtieth [of the month], though she does not entirely destroy him, as neither did Isis Typhon.

3. And when Nephthys conceives Anubis, Isis adopts him. For Nephthys is that which is below the earth and non-manifest, while Isis [is] that which is above the earth and manifest.

4. And the circle just touching them and called “Horizon,” as being common to both of them, has been called Anubis, and is likened to a dog for its characteristic; for the dog has the use of its sight both by day and night alike.

5. And Anubis seems to possess this power among Egyptians—just as Hecate with Greeks—being at one and the same time chthonian and olympian. 1

6. Some, however, think that Anubis is Kronos; 2 wherefore as he breeds all things out of himself and conceives (κύων) [all] in himself, he got the name of Dog (κυών).

7. There is, then, for the worshippers of Anubis some [mystery] or other that may not be spoken of. 3

8. In olden times, indeed, the dog enjoyed the highest honours in Egypt; but seeing that when Cambyses 4 slew the Apis and cast it out, no [animal] approached or touched its carcase but only the dog, he [thus] lost the [distinction of] being first and most honoured of the rest of the animals.

9. There are some, however, who call the shadow of the earth into which they think the Moon falls and is eclipsed, Typhon.


318:4 This is a worse guess than even that of the Physicists. Cf. li. 5.

319:1 Cf. lxii. 2 et al.

319:2 Cf. the Stoic attributes of Heracles in xl. 7.

319:3 If this is intended for the Great Sea of Space, it would be credible.

319:4 ἀντίφραξιν.

319:5 Square and Oblong were two of the fundamental “pairs of opposites” among the Pythagoreans. Cf. xlviii. 5.


320:1 The sesquioctave. In areas 8 is half of 16, and 9 of 18; while in a proportional measuring-rod or canon of 27 units, intervals of 8, 9, and 10 units succeeding one another complete the 27.

320:2 Cf. xiii. 8, 9.

320:3 Cf. xxxviii. 2.

321:1 Copt, the same—roughly corr. to March.

321:2 ἔμβασιν—or perhaps “Embarking.”

321:3 That is, is both wife and mother.

321:4 Typhon being the Sun according to this theory.

322:1 That is, infernal and celestial.

322:2 In the sense of Time.

322:3 This seems to suggest that Plutarch, though he faithfully records what “people say,” by no means wishes his readers to believe them.

322:4 But see xi. 4 and xxxi. 4.

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