5. An Egyptian tale about “the two brothers”[1]


Bata is shepherd for his brother Anubis. He knows the language of the cattle and follows the herd on its pastures. But the faithless wife of his brother has fallen in love with him and when he refuses she accuses him of attempting to rape her. His brother is furious and grabs his spear to kill Bata. But Bata is warned by the cattle and flees across the river and standing on the other side he cuts off his male member and throws it into the river as a sign of his innocence. Maspero has long ago proved that Bata is Osiris[2]. In the version of the Osiris-myth told by Plutarch Isis is unable to find this crucial part of her husband. ”For it had been thrown into the river and lepidotus, fagrus and oxyrynchus had eaten of it”[3]. In the tale about the two brothers it had been eaten by a calmar-fish. But also Philo of Byblos tells us about the highgod (Ouranos = Adonis) that his male organ was cut off and a flow of blood poured into the river and the brooks. The self-maming was part of the old Syrian and Inner Anatolian ecstatic religion. The purpose is to rise above the duality of male and female passions to mystic unity.

Bata flees to the “Cedar valley” (by Byblos) where the gods out of clay fashion him a very beautiful woman. Despite the warnings of poor Bata she goes to the beach where the waves tear off a lock of her hair and carries it to Egypt. The hair has such a wonderful scent that it arouses the desire of Pharaoh and he sends out his men to seek the woman and bring her to Egypt. When found she shows the soldiers how they can kill Bata, by cutting down the mighty cedar that carries his heart, but in death Bata is changed into a great bull and in this form he comes to Egypt, but is sacrificed at the palace of Pharaoh. But out of his blood two trees are sprouting in front of the palace-gate. The faithless woman orders that the two trees be cut down but in the process a small chip of the trees flies into her open mouth and she becomes pregnant with the child of Bata. In Catal Hüyük the highgod is both bull and shepherd (riding the bull) and the Lord of the forest. He is killed by the men wearing the leopard's skins of the goddess and her young lover, but he is reborn in his child, the calf. Exactly this rebirth is the important theme. After each death the Lord of life is born again. Life is victorious. Osiris is first drowned in the coffin set to sea, then washed ashore at Byblos where a tree grows up around his body. He is liberated from the trunk and brought to life again by Isis, then cut into pieces by Seth but finally collected and in spite of this harsh treatment able to make his wife pregnant and be reborn in his child Horus.

The main point in the fairytale-myths told by Arnobius and Pausanios about Attis is the transformation of the life of the god and his life-fluid to still new modes of existence. From the blood of the male organs torn from Agdistis grows a pomegranate tree. THE LIFE-JUICE OF THE GOD IS TRANSFORMED TO VEGETATIONEL POWER. By its fruit Nana becomes pregnant and gives birth to Attis. Attis drinks wine and goes hunting. From his spilt blood the violets of early spring are sprouting.

[1] A.H.Gardiner, Bibliotheca Aegyptiaca I, 1932, pp.9-29. From the 19th dynasty

[2] Les Contes Populaires de l´Egypte Ancienne, 3.ed., 1906, pp.6n1, 15n3, 17n1

[3] Is et Os 18