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Pages of Euterpe

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is one night on which the inhabitants all burn a multitude of lights
in the open air round their houses. They use lamps in the shape of
flat saucers filled with a mixture of oil and salt, on the top of
which the wick floats. These burn the whole night, and give to the
festival the name of the Feast of Lamps. The Egyptians who are
absent from the festival observe the night of the sacrifice, no less
than the rest, by a general lighting of lamps; so that the
illumination is not confined to the city of Sais, but extends over the
whole of Egypt. And there is a religious reason assigned for the
special honour paid to this night, as well as for the illumination
which accompanies it.
At Heliopolis and Buto the assemblies are merely for the purpose
of sacrifice; but at Papremis, besides the sacrifices and other
rites which are performed there as elsewhere, the following custom
is observed:- When the sun is getting low, a few only of the priests
continue occupied about the image of the god, while the greater
number, armed with wooden clubs, take their station at the portal of
the temple. Opposite to them is drawn up a body of men, in number
above a thousand, armed, like the others, with clubs, consisting of
persons engaged in the performance of their vows. The image of the
god, which is kept in a small wooden shrine covered with plates of
gold, is conveyed from the temple into a second sacred building the
day before the festival begins. The few priests still in attendance
upon the image place it, together with the shrine containing it, on
a four-wheeled car, and begin to drag it along; the others stationed
at the gateway of the temple, oppose its admission. Then the
votaries come forward to espouse the quarrel of the god, and set
upon the opponents, who are sure to offer resistance. A sharp fight
with clubs ensues, in which heads are commonly broken on both sides.
Many, I am convinced, die of the wounds that they receive, though
the Egyptians insist that no one is ever killed.
The natives give the subjoined account of this festival. They
say that the mother of the god Mars once dwelt in the temple.
Brought up at a distance from his parent, when he grew to man's estate
he conceived a wish to visit her. Accordingly he came, but the
attendants, who had never seen him before, refused him entrance, and
succeeded in keeping him out. So he went to another city and collected
a body of men, with whose aid he handled the attendants very
roughly, and forced his way in to his mother. Hence they say arose the
custom of a fight with sticks in honour of Mars at this festival.
The Egyptians first made it a point of religion to have no
converse with women in the sacred places, and not to enter them
without washing, after such converse. Almost all other nations, except
the Greeks and the Egyptians, act differently, regarding man as in
this matter under no other law than the brutes. Many animals, they
say, and various kinds of birds, may be seen to couple in the
temples and the sacred precincts, which would certainly not happen
if the gods were displeased at it. Such are the arguments by which
they defend their practice, but I nevertheless can by no means approve
of it. In these points the Egyptians are specially careful, as they
are indeed in everything which concerns their sacred edifices.
Egypt, though it borders upon Libya, is not a region abounding
in wild animals. The animals that do exist in the country, whether
domesticated or otherwise, are all regarded as sacred. If I were to
explain why they are consecrated to the several gods, I should be
led to speak of religious matters, which I particularly shrink from
mentioning; the points whereon I have touched slightly hitherto have
all been introduced from sheer necessity. Their custom with respect to
animals is as follows:- For every kind there are appointed certain
guardians, some male, some female, whose business it is to look
after them; and this honour is made to descend from father to son. The
inhabitants of the various cities, when they have made a vow to any
god, pay it to his animals in the way which I will now explain. At the
time of making the vow they shave the head of the child, cutting off

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