Sunday tends to be a pretty low readership day, and this has been a pretty slow week in the world of fringe history. On the plus side, it’s given me some time to do some additional reading, this time of the History of Egypt by Murtada ibn al-‘Afif (Murtadi ibn Gaphiphus), the first Arabic compilation of folklore about Egypt to have been translated into French, and then English. I have had the French edition for a while, but I recently found the seventeenth century English translation, and I am preparing it for a reprint. In the book, written in the thirteenth century, we find pretty much all of the same stories we find in every other Arabic book on pyramids and the Flood, oftentimes word for word identical to the Akhbar al-zaman. However, Murtada offers an interesting bit of testimony that so far as I know wasn’t addressed in Kevin van Bladel’s Arabic Hermes regarding the work of Abu Ma‘shar in developing the myth of the antediluvian origins of the Egyptian pyramids:
Abu Ma‘shar the astrologer, in his Book of Thousands, says that the reason for the building of the Pyramids was the dream which Surid ibn Shaluq saw. He confirms it in his Book of Miraculous Dreams, where he adds that he sent for the priests and soothsayers of his time, and the astrologers, and related to them what he had seen of the descent of the Moon upon Earth in the form of a woman; of the overturning of the Earth with its inhabitants, and of the total eclipse of the Sun; and the dream he had after that: and that the Priests declared to him the coming of the Deluge, whereof mention is made in the Book of the Annals… (trans. J. Davies, adapted)
This is interesting because it confirms that the story of Surid is as old as the parallel story of Hermes, and it suggests that the similarity between the two versions of how the pyramids came to be (or as Abu Ma‘shar would have it, the temples for Hermes and the pyramids for Surid) perhaps followed a line of convergent evolution rather than wholesale revision. It is perhaps interesting to note that Murtada mentions Hermes only twice, once to identify him as an Egyptian king before the Flood, and again to identify him with Idris and Enoch. The Akhbar al-zaman is similarly silent on Hermes. Murtada says, “He it was who foretold the coming of the Deluge, and the destruction of the world by water, which was to come over the Earth.” He adds that Idris-Hermes also led the Sethites in battle against the Cainites in the first skirmishes of a war that would last down to the Flood. This is a late, euhemerized echo of the Watchers-Giants myth, entirely rewritten to remove the magical and the monstrous. Gone are the fallen angels and the giants, even in name. Only two warring tribes remain. Frankly, it is a bit dull.
Another passage in Murtada is of interest in tracing the changes in legend. In giving folklore about sexual immorality, he make an interesting mistake that stands out when we compare his words (left) with those of the Akhbar al-zaman (right), written perhaps 100-300 years earlier:
Somehow, the temple (birba) of Akhmim has become a pyramid, while the second part of the story, told first of the Great Pyramid, was applied to the temple of Akhmim! No wonder it was so easy for stories about Surid and Hermes to move between the two antediluvian figures associated with these two locations.
7/12/2015 11:15:57 am
The connection between knowledge and the pyramids is interesting because within Freemasonry building (albeit in a symbolical sense) is compared with reason. The story of no profane thing (sex) happening in the pyramid is reminiscent of mental purity. Perhaps Hermes, Surid, Enoch were prototypes of the Freemasonic Supreme Being (Great Architect of the Universe).
7/12/2015 11:30:43 am
Thrice-Great Hermes would correspond to the three ruffians who tried to steal the secret from H.A.B. - with the "death" being a prerequisite part of initiation (enlightenment).
7/12/2015 11:34:13 am
The Holy Royal Arch degree is really just a variation of the Blue Degrees. ie, Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, Master Mason. But it all originates from sunrise-midday-sunset - a belief system which seems to span back thousands of years.
7/12/2015 05:20:24 pm
Old McDonald, when he had a farm, got a degree from his cow. It was the holy cow degree. He was the second one to receive it. The first was Scott Wolter over a cup of coffee.
7/12/2015 07:41:02 pm
I don't doubt that it's all ultimately meaningless;
7/12/2015 07:48:07 pm
Freemasonry in different countries reflected the political society of those different countries - it was mainly something else - but it was attached to those degrees, rituals and beliefs, shared around the world. For example, the political stances of the Grand Orient of France and United Grand Lodge of England are at total odds with each other, yet they share the identical rituals of Blue Lodge Masonry.
7/12/2015 07:55:07 pm
Within Freemasonic history it is given that the Rite of Memphis and Rite of Misraim were merged together as the Rite of Memphis and Misraim by Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-1882) - yet you won't find that information in standard biographies of Garibaldi. In its heyday during the 17th and 18th centuries Freemasonry was big with important world figures being members.
Day Late and Dollar Short
7/13/2015 05:41:23 am
"I have had the French edition for a while, but I recently found the seventeenth century English translation, and I am preparing it for a reprint."
7/13/2015 06:12:59 am
Ah, now I understand your Murtada reference yesterday. He's quite late, circa 1200, so I presume he'll have had multiple texts available to him, and floundered when trying to resolve the similarities and contradictions between them.
7/13/2015 07:37:30 am
He admits as much: He says he's copying various books, but that some are missing pages or otherwise have unreadable sections! Murtada is quite similar to the Akhbar al-zaman, often word for word, but where they differ, he usually has the inferior reading. For example, he gives the planet Jupiter as the nonsense word Rawis, while the Akhbar gives it as Zaus (Zeus), showing the underlying Greek. But on the other hand, he seems to have had access to some texts that are now lost (or at least untranslated) since he has some stories that I can't find anywhere else.
7/13/2015 09:53:46 am
Sounds like he used the Akhbar itself as a source. The R-Z mistake is easy in Arabic, because the symbols Ra and Zay are the same except that Zay has a dot over it.
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