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Pages of Euterpe

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resembles the rites called Orphic and Bacchic, but which are in
reality Egyptian and Pythagorean; for no one initiated in these
mysteries can be buried in a woollen shroud, a religious reason
being assigned for the observance.
The Egyptians likewise discovered to which of the gods each
month and day is sacred; and found out from the day of a man's birth
what he will meet with in the course of his life, and how he will
end his days, and what sort of man he will be- discoveries whereof the
Greeks engaged in poetry have made a use. The Egyptians have also
discovered more prognostics than all the rest of mankind besides.
Whenever a prodigy takes place, they watch and record the result;
then, if anything similar ever happens again, they expect the same
With respect to divination, they hold that it is a gift which no
mortal possesses, but only certain of the gods: thus they have an
oracle of Hercules, one of Apollo, of Minerva, of Diana, of Mars,
and of Jupiter. Besides these, there is the oracle of Latona at
Buto, which is held in much higher repute than any of the rest. The
mode of delivering the oracles is not uniform, but varies at the
different shrines.
Medicine is practised among them on a plan of separation; each
physician treats a single disorder, and no more: thus the country
swarms with medical practitioners, some undertaking to cure diseases
of the eye, others of the head, others again of the teeth, others of
the intestines, and some those which are not local.
The following is the way in which they conduct their mournings and
their funerals:- On the death in any house of a man of consequence,
forthwith the women of the family beplaster their heads, and sometimes
even their faces, with mud; and then, leaving the body indoors,
sally forth and wander through the city, with their dress fastened
by a band, and their bosoms bare, beating themselves as they walk. All
the female relations join them and do the same. The men too, similarly
begirt, beat their breasts separately. When these ceremonies are over,
the body is carried away to be embalmed.
There are a set of men in Egypt who practice the art of embalming,
and make it their proper business. These persons, when a body is
brought to them, show the bearers various models of corpses, made in
wood, and painted so as to resemble nature. The most perfect is said
to be after the manner of him whom I do not think it religious to name
in connection with such a matter; the second sort is inferior to the
first, and less costly; the third is the cheapest of all. All this the
embalmers explain, and then ask in which way it is wished that the
corpse should be prepared. The bearers tell them, and having concluded
their bargain, take their departure, while the embalmers, left to
themselves, proceed to their task. The mode of embalming, according to
the most perfect process, is the following:- They take first a crooked
piece of iron, and with it draw out the brain through the nostrils,
thus getting rid of a portion, while the skull is cleared of the
rest by rinsing with drugs; next they make a cut along the flank
with a sharp Ethiopian stone, and take out the whole contents of the
abdomen, which they then cleanse, washing it thoroughly with palm
wine, and again frequently with an infusion of pounded aromatics.
After this they fill the cavity with the purest bruised myrrh, with
cassia, and every other sort of spicery except frankincense, and sew
up the opening. Then the body is placed in natrum for seventy days,
and covered entirely over. After the expiration of that space of time,
which must not be exceeded, the body is washed, and wrapped round,
from head to foot, with bandages of fine linen cloth, smeared over
with gum, which is used generally by the Egyptians in the place of
glue, and in this state it is given back to the relations, who enclose
it in a wooden case which they have had made for the purpose, shaped
into the figure of a man. Then fastening the case, they place it in
a sepulchral chamber, upright against the wall. Such is the most
costly way of embalming the dead.

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