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That such a creature, he adds, once inhabited the Libyan desert, we have the testimony of both Hanno the Carthaginian and Lucan the Roman, and if it is now no longer an inhabitant of that region, it is probably owing to the advance of civilisation having driven it farther south.'
Apart from the extreme improbability that African exploration should have brought no rumours of such a monster if it existed, it may be said concerning Mr. Cooper's theory: (1.) If, indeed, the references cited were to a reptile now unknown, we might be led by mythologic analogy to expect that it would have been revered beyond either the Asp or the Cobra. In proportion to the fear has generally been the exaltation of its objects. Primitive peoples have generally gathered courage to pour invective upon evil monsters when—either from their non-existence or raritythere was least danger of its being practically resented as a personal affront. (2.) The regular folds of Apophis on the sarcophagus of Seti I. and elsewhere are so evidently mystical and conventional that, apparently, they refer to a serpent-form only as the guilloche on a wall may refer to sea-waves. Apophis (or Apap) would have been a decorative artist to fold himself in such order.
These impossible labyrinthine coils suggest Time, as the serpent with its tail in its mouth signifies Eternity,– an evolution of the same idea. This was the interpretation given by a careful scholar, the late William Hickson, to the procession of nine persons depicted on the sarcophagus mentioned as bearing a serpent, each holding a fold, all being regular enough for a frieze. “The scene,' says this author, 'appears to relate to the Last Judgment, for Osiris is seen on his throne, passing sentence on a crowd before him ; and in the same tableaux are depicted the river that divides the living from the dead, and the bridge
1. Time and Faith,' i. 204. Groombridge, 1857.
of life. The death of the serpent may possibly be intended to symbolise the end of time. This idea of long duration might be a general one relating to all time, or it might refer to the duration of individual life; it involved naturally the evils and agonies of life; but the fundamental conception is more simple, and also more poetic, than even these implications, and it means eternal waste and decay. One has need only to sit before a clock to see Apophis: there coil upon coil winds the ever-moving monster, whose tooth is remorseless, devouring little by little the strength and majesty of man, and reducing his grandest achievements—even his universe-to dust. Time is the undying Worm.
God having made me worm, I make you-smoke.
Yet do I gnaw no less
And steal your witnesses.
Since the star fames, man would be wrong to teach
Naught real is save me.
The apple on the tree.
I clip the rays that fall;
The constellations all.
The broad-ringed Saturn toss
That steers to Kalymnos.? 1.The Epic of the Worm,' by Victor Hugo. Translated by Bayard Tay or from ‘La Légende des Siècles'
The natural history of Apophis, so far as he has any, is probably suggested in the following passage cited by Mr. Cooper from Wilkinson :-' Ælian relates many strange stories of the asp, and the respect paid to it by the Egyptians; but we may suppose that in his sixteen species of asps other snakes were included. He also speaks of a dragon which was sacred in the Egyptian Melite, and another kind of snake called Paries or Paruas, dedicated to Æsculapius. The serpent of Melite had priests and ministers, a table and bowl. It was kept in a tower, and fed by the priests with cakes made of flour and honey, which they placed there in a bowl. Having done this they retired. The next day, on returning to the apartment, the food was found to be eaten, and the same quantity was again put into the bowl, for it was not lawful for any one to see the sacred reptile.' 1
It was in this concealment from the outward eye that the Serpent was able to assume such monstrous proportions to the eye of imagination ; and, indeed, it is not beyond conjecture that this serpent of Melite, coming in conflict with Osirian worship, was degraded and demonised into that evil monster (Apophis) whom Horus slew to avenge his destruction of Osiris (for he was often identified with Typhon).
Though Horus cursed and slew this terrible demonserpent, he reappears in all Egyptian Mythology with undiminished strength, and all evil powers were the brood
i Bruce relates of the Abyssinians that a serpent is commonly kept in their houses to consult for an augury of good or evil. Butter and honey are placed before it, of which if it partake, the omen is good ; if the serpent refuse to eat, some misfortune is sure to happen. This custom seems to throw a light on the passage— Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good' (Isa. vii. 15).-Time and Faith, i, 60. .
Compare the apocryphal tale of Bel and the Dragon. Bel was a healing god of the Babylonians, and the Dragon whom he slew may have been regarded in later times as his familiar.
of himself or Typhon, who were sometimes described as brothers and sometimes as the same beings. From the •Ritual of the Dead' we learn that it was the high privilege and task of the heroic dead to be reconstructed and go forth to encounter and subdue the agents of Apophis, who sent out to engage them the crocodiles Seb, Hem, and Shui, and other crocodiles from north, south, east, and west; the hero having conquered these, acquires their might, and next prevails over the walking viper Ru; and so on with other demons called 'precursors of Apophis,' until their prince himself is encountered and slain, all the hero's guardian deities attending to fix a knife in each of the monster's folds. These are the Vanquishers of Time,the immortal.
In Apophis we find the Serpent fairly developed to a principle of evil. He is an 'accuser of the sun;' the twelve gateways into Hades are surmounted by his representatives, which the Sun must pass-twelve hours of night. He is at once the ‘Nachash beriach' and 'Nachash aktalon'the ‘Cross-bar serpent' and the 'Tortuous serpent'—which we meet with in Isa. xxvii. 1: 'In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish leviathan the piercing serpent, even leviathan that crooked serpent. The marginal translation in the English version is 'crossing like a bar,' instead of piercing, and the Vulgate has serpens vectis. This refers to the moral function of the serpent, as barring the way, or guarding the door. No doubt this is the 'crooked serpent' of Job xxvi. 13, for the astrological sense of it does not invalidate the terrestrial significance. Imagination could only project into the heavens what it had learned on earth. Bochart in identifying ‘Nachash-beriach' as 'the flying Serpent,' is quite right : the Seraph, or winged Serpent, which barred the way to the tree of life in Eden, and in some
traditions was the treacherous guard at the gate of the garden, and which bit Israel in the wilderness, was this same protean Apophis. For such tasks, and to soar into the celestial planisphere, the Serpent must needs have wings; and thus it is already far on its way to become the flying Dragon. But in one form, as the betrayer of man, it must lose its wings and crawl upon the ground for ever. The Serpent is thus not so much agathodemon and kakodemon in one form, as a principle of destructiveness which is sometimes employed by the deity to punish his enemies, as Horus employs fiery Kheti, but sometimes requires to be himself punished.
There have been doubts whether the familiar derivation of opus, serpent, from öf, the eye, shall continue. Some connect the Greek word with čxus, but Curtius maintains that the old derivation from óf is correct. Even were this not the etymology, the popularity of it would equally suggest the fact that this reptile was of old supposed to kill with its glance; and it was also generally regarded as gifted with præternatural vision. By a similar process to that which developed avenging Furies out of the detective dawn-Erinys from Saranyu, Satan from Lucifer?
-this subtle Spy might have become also a retributive and finally a malignant power. The Furies were portrayed bearing serpents in their hands, and each of these might carry ideally the terrors of Apophis : Time also is a detective, and the guilty heard it saying, “Your sin will find you out.'
Through many associations of this kind the Serpent became at an early period an agent of ordeal. Any one handling it with impunity was regarded as in league with it, or specially hedged about by the deity whose
1.Principles of Greek Etymology,' ii. 63.
: See pp. 8 and 20.