The Mythology of all races Volume 12
Egyptian by W.M. Müller and Indo-Chinese by J.G. Scott.
|Egyptian by W.M. Müller and Indo-Chinese by J.G. Scott.|
Excerpt from Introduction by W.M. Müller
This study can hope to give only a sketch of a vast theme which, because of Its endless and difficult material, has thus far received but superficial investigation even from the best of scholars; its complete elaboration would require several volumes of space and a lifetime of preparation. The principal difficulty is to make it clear to the modern mind that religion can exist without any definite system of doctrine, being composed merely of countless speculations that are widely divergent and often conflicting. This doctrinal uncertainty is increased by the way in which the traditions have been transmitted. Only rarely is a piece of mythology complete.
For the most part, we have nothing but many scattered allusions which must be united for a hazardous restoration of one of these theories. In other respects, likewise, the enormous epigraphic material presents such difficulties and is so confusing in nature that everything hitherto done on the religion of Egypt is, as we have just implied, merely pioneer work. As yet an exhaustive description of this religion could scarcely be written.
A minor problem is a question of transliterating Egyptian words and names, most of which are written in so abbreviated a fashion that their pronunciation, especially in the case of the vowels, always remains dubious unless we have a good later tradition of their sound. It is quite as though the abbreviation "st." (= "street") were well known to persons having no acquaintance with English to mean something like "road," but without any indication as to its pronunciation. Foreigners would be compelled to guess whether the sound of the word was set, sat, seta, sota, etc., or este, usot, etc., since there is absolutely nothing to suggest the true pronunciation of "street." A great part of the Egyptian vocabulary is known only in this way, and in many instances, we must make the words pronounceable by arbitrarily assigning vowel sounds, etc., to them.
Accordingly, I have thought it better to follow popular mispronunciations like Nut than to try Newet, Neyewet, and other unsafe attempts, and even elsewhere I have sacrificed correctness to simplicity where difficulty might be experienced by a reader unfamiliar with some Oriental systems of writing. It should be borne in mind that Sekhauit and Uzoit, for example, might more correctly be written S(e)kh) ewyet, Wezoyet, and that e is often used as a mere filler where the true vowel is quite unknown. Sometimes we can prove that the later Egyptians themselves misread the imperfect hieroglyphs, but for the most part, we must retain these mispronunciations, even though we are conscious of their slight value. All this will explain why any two Egyptologists so rarely agree in their transcriptions. Returning in despair to old-fashioned methods of conventionalizing transcription, I have sought to escape these difficulties rather than to solve them.
In the transliteration kh has the value of the Scottish or German ch;h is a. voiceless laryngeal spirant — a rough, wheezing, guttural sound; q is an emphatic k, formed deep in the throat (Hebrew p); ' Is strange, voiced laryngeal explosive (Hebrew); f is an assimilated t (German z); z is used here as a rather inexact substitute for the peculiar Egyptian pronunciation of the emphatic Semitic s (Hebrew 1^, In Egyptian sounding like ts, for which no single type can be made).
For those who may be unfamiliar with the history of Egypt, it will here be sufficient to say that its principal divisions (dis- regarding the intermediate periods) are: the Old Empire (First to Sixth Dynasties), about 3400 to 2500 b. c; the Middle Empire (Eleventh to Thirteenth Dynasties), about 2200 to 1700 B.C.; the New Empire (Eighteenth to Twenty-Sixth Dynasties), about 1600 to 525 b. c. Pictures that could not be photographed directly from books have been drawn by my daughter; Figs. 13, 65 (b) are taken from scarabs in my possession.
Since space does not permit full references to the monuments, I have omitted these wherever I follow the present general knowledge and where the student can verify these views from the indexes of the more modern literature which I quote. References have been limited, so far as possible, to observations that are new or less well known. Although I have sought to be brief and simple in my presentation of Egyp- tian mythology, my study contains a large amount of original research.
I have sought to emphasize two principles more than has been done hitherto: (a) the comparative view — Egyptian religion had by no means so isolated a growth as has generally been assumed; (b) as in many other religions, its doctrines often found a greater degree of expression in religious art than in religious literature, so that modern interpreter should make more use of the Egyptian pictures. Thus I trust not only that this book will fill an urgent demand for a reliable popular treatise on this subject, but that for scholars also it will mark a step in advance toward a better understanding of Egypt's most interesting bequest to posterity.
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