The Legend of Horus of Behutet and the Winged Disk

The text of this Horus Legend is cut in hieroglyphs on the walls of the temple of Edfu, in Upper Egypt, and some of the incidents described in it are illustrated by large bas-reliefs.

The form of the Legend here given dates from the Ptolemaic Period, but the subject matter is some thousands of years older.

The great historical fact underlying the Legend is the Conquest of Egypt by some very early king who invaded Egypt from the south, and who succeeded in conquering every part of it, even the northern part of the Delta.

The events described are supposed to have taken place whilst Râ was still reigning on the earth.

The Legend states that in the three hundred and sixty-third year of the reign of Râ-Harmakhis, the ever living, His Majesty was in Ta-sti (i.e. the Land of the Bow, or Nubia) with his soldiers; the enemy had reviled him, and for this reason the land is called "Uauatet" to this day.

From Nubia Râ sailed down the river to Apollinopolis (Edfu), and Heru-Behutet, or Horus of Edfu, was with him.

On arriving there Horus told Râ that the enemy were plotting against him, and Râ told him to go out and slay them. Horus took the form of a great winged disk, which flew up into the air and pursued the enemy, and it attacked them with such terrific force that they could neither see nor hear, and they fell upon each other, and slew each other, and in a moment not a single foe was left alive.

Then Horus returned to the Boat of Râ-Harmakhis, in the form of the winged disk which shone with many colours, and said, "Advance, O Râ, and look upon thine enemies who are lying under thee in this land."

Râ set out on the journey, taking with him the goddess Ashtoreth, and he saw his enemies lying on the ground, each of them being fettered. After looking upon his slaughtered foes Râ said to the gods who were with him, "Behold, let us sail in our boat on the water, for our hearts are glad because our enemies have been overthrown on the earth."

So the Boat of Râ moved onwards towards the north, and the enemies of the god who were on the banks took the form of crocodiles and hippopotami, and tried to frighten the god, for as his boat came near them they opened their jaws wide, intending to swallow it up together with the gods who were in it. Among the crew were the Followers of Horus of Edfu, who were skilled workers in metal, and each of these had in his hands an iron spear and a chain.

These "Blacksmiths" threw out their chains into the river and allowed the crocodiles and hippopotami to entangle their legs in them, and then they dragged the beasts towards the bows of the Boat, and driving their spears into their bodies, slew them there.

After the slaughter the bodies of six hundred and fifty-one crocodiles were brought and laid out before the town of Edfu. When Thoth saw these he said, "Let your hearts rejoice, O gods of heaven, Let your hearts rejoice, O ye gods who dwell on the earth.

The Young Horus cometh in peace.

On his way he hath made manifest deeds of valour, according to the Book of slaying the Hippopotamus."

And from that day they made figures of Horus in metal.

Then Horus of Edfu took the form of the winged disk, and set himself on the prow of the Boat of Râ.

He took with him Nekhebet, goddess of the South, and Uatchet, goddess of the North, in the form of serpents, so that they might make all the enemies of the Sun-god to quake in the South and in the North.

His foes who had fled to the north doubled back towards the south, for they were in deadly fear of the god.

Horus pursued and overtook them, and he and his blacksmiths had in their hands spears and chains, and they slew large numbers of them to the south-east of the town of Thebes in Upper Egypt.

Many succeeded in escaping towards the north once more, but after pursuing them for a whole day Horus overtook them, and made a great slaughter among them.

Meanwhile the other foes of the god, who had heard of the defeats of their allies, fled into Lower Egypt, and took refuge among the swamps of the Delta.

Horus set out after them, and came up with them, and spent four days in the water slaying his foes, who tried to escape in the forms of crocodiles and hippopotami.

He captured one hundred and forty-two of the enemy and a male hippopotamus, and took them to the fore part of the Boat of Râ. There he hacked them in pieces, and gave their inward parts to his followers, and their mutilated bodies to the gods and goddesses who were in the Boat of Râ and on the river banks in the town of Heben.

Then the remnant of the enemy turned their faces towards the Lake of the North, and they attempted to sail to the Mediterranean in boats; but the terror of Horus filled their hearts, and they left their boats and fled to the district of Mertet-Ament, where they joined themselves to the worshippers of Set, the god of evil, who dwelt in the Western Delta.

Horus pursued them in his boat for one day and one night without seeing them, and he arrived at the town of Per-Rehui.

At length he discovered the position of the enemy, and he and his followers fell upon them, and slew a large number of them; he captured three hundred and eighty one of them alive, and these he took to the Boat of Râ, then, having slain them, he gave their carcases to his followers or bodyguard, who presumably devoured them.

The custom of eating the bodies of enemies is very old in Egypt, and survives in some parts of Africa to this day.

Then Set, the great antagonist of Horus, came out and cursed him for the slaughter of his people, using most shameful words of abuse.

Horus stood up and fought a duel with Set, the "Stinking Face," as the text calls him, and Horus succeeded in throwing him to the ground and spearing him.

Horus smashed his mouth with a blow of his mace, and having fettered him with his chain, he brought him into the presence of Râ, who ordered that he was to be handed over to Isis and her son Horus, that they might work their will on him.

Here we must note that the ancient editor of the Legend has confounded Horus the ancient Sun-god with Horus, son of Isis, son of Osiris.

Then Horus, the son of Isis, cut off the heads of Set and his followers in the presence of Râ, and dragged Set by his feet round about throughout the district with his spear driven through his head and back, according to the order of Râ.

The form which Horus of Edfu had at that time was that of a man of great strength, with the face and back of a hawk; on his head he wore the Double Crown, with feathers and serpents attached, and in his hands he held a metal spear and a metal chain.

And Horus, the son of Isis, took upon himself a similar form, and the two Horuses slew all the enemies on the bank of the river to the west of the town of Per-Rehui.

This slaughter took place on the seventh day of the first month of the season Pert,[1] which was ever afterwards called the "Day of the Festival of Sailing."

Now, although Set in the form of a man had been slain, he reappeared in the form of a great hissing serpent, and took up his abode in a hole in the ground without being noticed by Horus.

Râ, however, saw him, and gave orders that Horus, the son of Isis, in the form of a hawk-headed staff, should set himself at the mouth of the hole, so that the monster might never reappear among men. This Horus did, and Isis his mother lived there with him.

Once again it became known to Râ that a remnant of the followers of [81]Set had escaped, and that under the direction of the Smait fiends, and of Set, who had reappeared, they were hiding in the swamps of the Eastern Delta.

Horus of Edfu, the winged disk, pursued them, speared them, and finally slew them in the presence of Râ.

For the moment there were no more enemies of Râ to be found in the district on land, although Horus passed six days and six nights in looking for them; but it seems that several of the followers of Set in the forms of water reptiles were lying on the ground under water, and that Horus saw them there.

At this time Horus had strict guard kept over the tomb of Osiris in Anrutef,[1] because he learned that the Smait fiends wanted to come and wreck both it and the body of the god.

Isis, too, never ceased to recite spells and incantations in order to keep away her husband's foes from his body.

Meanwhile the "blacksmiths" of Horus, who were in charge of the "middle regions" of Egypt, found a body of the enemy, and attacked them fiercely, slew many of them, and took one hundred and six of them prisoners.

The "blacksmiths" of the west also took one hundred and six prisoners, and both groups of prisoners were slain before Râ.

In return for their services Râ bestowed dwelling-places upon the "blacksmiths," and allowed them to have temples with images of their gods in them, and arranged for offerings and libations to be made to them by properly appointed priests of various classes.

Shortly after these events Râ discovered that a number of his enemies were still at large, and that they had sailed in boats to the swamps that lay round about the town of Tchal, or Tchar, better known as Zoan or Tanis.

Once more Horus unmoored the Boat of Râ, and set out against them; some took refuge in the waters, and others landed and escaped to the hilly land on the east.

For some reason, which is not quite apparent, Horus took the form of a mighty lion with a man's face, and he wore on his head the triple crown.

His claws were like flints, and he pursued the enemy on the hills, and chased them hither and thither, and captured one hundred and forty-two of them.

He tore out their tongues, and ripped their bodies into strips with his claws, and gave them over to his allies in the mountains, who, no doubt, ate them.

This was the last fight in the north of Egypt, and Râ proposed that they should sail up the river and return to the south.

They had traversed all Egypt, and sailed over the lakes in the Delta, and down the arms of the Nile to the Mediterranean, and as no more of the enemy were to be seen the prow of the boat of Râ was turned southwards.

Thoth recited the spells that produced fair weather, and said the words of power that prevented storms from rising, and in due course the Boat reached Nubia.

When it arrived Horus found in the country of Uauatet men who were conspiring against him and cursing him, just as they had at one time blasphemed Râ.

Horus, taking the form of the winged disk, and accompanied by the two serpent-goddesses, Nekhebet and Uatchet, attacked the rebels, but there was no fierce fighting this time, for the hearts of the enemy melted through fear of him.

His foes cast themselves before him on the ground in submission, they offered no resistance, and they died straightway.

Horus then returned to the town of Behutet (Edfu), and the gods acclaimed him, and praised his prowess.

Râ was so pleased with him that he ordered Thoth to have a winged disk, with a serpent on each side of it, placed in every temple in Egypt in which he (i.e. Râ) was worshipped, so that it might act as a protector of the building, and drive away any and every fiend and devil that might wish to attack it.

This is the reason why we find the winged disk, with a serpent on each side of it, above the doors of temples and religious buildings throughout the length and breadth of Egypt.

In many places in the text that contains the above Legend there are short passages in which attempts are made to explain the origins of the names of certain towns and gods.

All these are interpolations in the narrative made by scribes at a late period of Egyptian history.

As it would be quite useless to reproduce them without many explanatory notes, for which there is no room in this little book, they have been omitted.

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