Then being healed of my madness I took all the treasure of that old Magus which he had laid up for many years — and none gainsaid me. Great and splendid was it of gold more than twelve bullocks could draw, of balassius rubies, and sardonyx, and beryl, and chrysoprase; of diamond and starry sapphire, of emerald much, very much, of topaz and of amethyst great and wonderful gems. Also he had a figure of Nuit greater than a woman, which was made of lapis lazuli specked with gold, carved with marvellous excellence. And he had the secret gem of Hadit that is not found on earth, for that it is invisible save when all else is no more seen.
Then went I into the market and bought slaves. I bought me in particular a giant, a Nubian blacker than polished granite seen by starlight, tall as a young palm and straight, yet more hideous than the Ape of Thoth. Also I bought a young pale stripling from the North, a silly boy with idle languishing ways. But his mouth burned like sunset when the dust-storms blow. So pale an weak was he that all despised him and mocked him for a girl. Then he took a white-hot iron from the fire and wrote with it my name in hieroglyphics on his breast; nor did his smile once alter while the flesh hissed and smoked.
Thus we went out a great caravan to a rocky islet in the Nile, difficult of access for that the waters foamed and swirled dangerously about it. There we builded a little temple shaped like a beehive; but there was no altar and no shrine therein; for in that temple should the god be sacrificed unto himself.
Myself I made the god thereof; I powdered my hair with gold, and inwound it with flowers. I gilded my eyelids, and I stained my lips with vermilion. I gilded my breasts and my nails, and as God and Victim in one was I daily sacrificed unto that strange thing that was none other than myself. I made my giant Nubian high priest; and I endowed his wand with magic power, so that he might properly perform my rites. This he did to such purpose that many men from Memphis and even from more distant towns, leaving their gods, came thither, and did sacrifice. Then I appointed also the pale boy warder of the Sanctuary: and he swore unto me to be faithful unto death.
Now there arose a great strife in Memphis, and many foolish and lewd women cried out against us. So fierce was the uproar that a great company of women issued forth from the city and came into the island. They slew my pale boy at the gate, though sword in hand he fought against them. Then they frothed on, and I confronted them in my glory. They hesitated, and in that moment I smote them with a deadly itching, so that running forth they tore off their clothes and set themselves to scratching, while my people laughed until they ached.
At the term, indeed, with exhaustion and with loss of blood they died all; four hundred and two women perished in that great day's slaughter. So that the people of Memphis had peace for awhile.
But as for me, I mourned the loss of that young slave. I had his body embalmed as is not fitting for other than a king. And at the door of the temple I placed his sarcophagus beneath a hedge of knives and spears, so that there was no other access to my glory.
Like honour hath no slave had ever.
Thus then I abode three cycles of the season; and at the end of that time the high Priest died.
For mine was a strange and dreadful rite to do; none other, and none unfortified by magic power, could have done this thing.
Yet I too sickened of that everlasting sacrifice. I was become worn and wan; there was no blood but ice in my veins. I had indeed become all but a god …
Therefore I took the body of my Nubian, and slew four young girls, and filled all the hollow spaces of his body with their blood. Then too I sealed up his body with eight seals; and the ninth seal was mine own, the centre of my godhead.
Then he rose slowly and staggeringly as I uttered the dreadful words:
A ka dua
Tuf ur biu
Bi aa chefu
Dudu ner af an nuteru!
Then I touched him with my wand and he rose into full power of his being; and we entered in, and for the last time did he preform (though silent) the ceremony. At whose end he lay shrivelled and collapsed, shrunken like an old wineskin; yet his blood availed me nothing. I was icier than before. Yet now indeed was I Osiris, for I sent out flames of cold gray glory from my skin, and mine eyes were rigid with ecstasy.
Yea, by Osiris himself, I swear it! Even as the eyes of all living men revolve ceaselessly, so were mine fixed!
Then I shook myself and went forth into the city of Memphis, my face being veiled and my steps led by slaves.
And there I went into the temples one by one; and I twitched aside my veil, whereat all men fell dead on the instant, and the gods tumbled from their places, and broke in pieces upon the floor.
And I veiled myself, and went into the market-place and lifted up my voice in a chant and cried:
Death, and desolation, and despair!
I lift up my voice, and all the gods are dumb.
I unveil my face, and all that liveth is no more,
I sniff up life, and breathe forth destruction.
I hear the music of the world, and its echo is Silence.
Death, and desolation, and despair!
The parting of the ways is come: the Equinox of the Gods is past.
Another day: another way.
Let them that hear me be abased before me!
Death, and desolation, and despair!
Then I pulled away my veil, and the cold lightnings of death shot forth, and the people of the city fell dead where they stood.
Save only one, a young boy, a flute-player, that was blind, and, seeing not those eyes of mine, died not.
Then to him I spake, saying:
"Arise, summon the priests and the people, all that remain. And let them build a temple unto Osiris the God of the dead, and let the dead be worshipped for ever and ever."
This I said, and went out from the city with the two slaves that I had left in the gate, and we went unto Nile, unto a cave by the bank of the river; and there I abode for many months, weeping for Isis my Lady. For though I had avenged her in many dreadful deeds, yet I brought her not back unto life. Moreover the love of her was as it were dead in me, so that my heart stirred not at the thought of her. Say that my love wandered like a ghost unburied, frozen, adrift upon the winds!
Now of my deeds at this period it is almost too horrible to tell. For I performed great penance, in the hope of vitalizing that dead principle in me which men call the soul.
I starved myself shamefully, in this manner. First surrounding myself with all possible luxuries of food, brought in steaming and savoury from hour to hour, I yet condemned myself to subsist upon a little garlic and a little salt, with a little water in which oats had been bruised.
Then if any wish arose in me to eat of the dainties around me I gashed myself with a sharp stone.
Moreover I kindled a great fire in the cave so that the slaves stumbled and fainted as they approached. And the smoke choked me so that I constantly vomited a black and ill-smelling mucus from my lungs, stained here and there with frothing blood.
Again, I suffered my hair to grow exceeding long, and therein I harboured vermin. Also, when I lay down to sleep, though this I did not till with swollen tongue and blackened throat I could no longer howl the name of my dead Lady, then (I say) did I smear my limbs with honey, that the rats of the cave might gnaw them as I slept. Moreover, I pillowed mine head upon a corpse dead of leprosy, and whenever that dead soul of mine stirred at all with love toward my Lady, then I caressed and kissed that corpse, and sang soft songs to it, playing with gracious words and gestures. All this spoke loudly to my soul, rebuking it for its weakness and corruption. So too the bitterness and foulness of my life would often overleap the limit of sensibility; and then for hours together would I be lost in a raging whirlwind of laughter. At this time my slaves would be afraid to come anigh me, and then darting out of the cave I would catch one by the hair and dragging him within put him to exquisite torture. This indeed was of great use to me; for I would devise atrocious things, and if they served to excite his utmost anguish I would then try them on myself. Thus I would run needles steeped in Nile mud beneath my finger-vails, so that the sores festering might produce a sickening agony. Or again I would cut strips of skin and tear them off; but this failed, though it acted well enough upon the slave, for my own skin had become too brittle. Then I would take a piece of hard wood, and hammer it with a stone against the bones, hurting the membrane that covers them, and causing it to swell. This too I had to abandon, for the limb of the slave died, and he swelled up and rotted and turned green, and in shocking agony he died.
So then I was compelled to cure myself magically, and this was a great loss of force.
Yet was I "Far from the Happy Ones," although my lips hung on my fleshless face like bean-pods withered and blackened, and although there was not one inch of skin upon all my body that was not scarred.
Yet my trial was nigh its end. For the people of Memphis, wondering at the frequent purchases of dead lepers made always by the same slave, began, as is the wont of the ignorant, to spread foolish rumours. At last they said openly "there is an holy hermit in the old cave by Nile." Then the barren women of the city came out stealthily to me in the hope that by my sanctity their dry sticks might blossom.
But I showed them my dead leper, and said "Let me first beget children upon this, and after I will do your business." This liked them not; yet they left me not alone, for they went home and cried out that I was an horror, a ghoul, a vampire. … And at that all the young and beautiful women of the city, leaving their lovers and their husbands, flocked to me, bringing gifts. But I took them to the dead leper and said, "When you are beautiful as that is beautiful, and when I am weary of its beauty and its delight, then will I do your pleasure."
Then they all raged vehemently against me, and stirred up the men of the city to destroy me. And I, not being minded to display my magic force, went by night (so soon as I heard of this) and took sanctuary in the shrine of Osiris that I had caused them to build. And there I attained felicity; for uniting my consciousness with the god's, I obtained the expansion of that consciousness. Is not the kingdom of the dead a mighty kingdom?
So I perceived the universe as it were a single point of infinite nothingness yet of infinite extension; and becoming this universe, I became dissolved utterly therein. Moreover, my body lifted itself up and rose in the air to a great height beyond the shadow of the earth, and the earth rolled beneath me; yet of all this I knew nothing, for that I was all these things and none of them. Moreover I was united with Isis the Mother of Osiris, being yet her brother and her lord.
Woe, woe to me! for all this was but partial and imperfect; nor did I truly understand that which occurred.
Only this I knew, that I should return to my city of Thebai, and rule therein as High Priest of Osiris, no longer striving to some end unheard-of or impossible, but quietly and patiently living in the enjoyment of my dignities and wealth, even as a man.
Yet one thing I saw also, that as Isis is the Lady of all Nature, the living; and as Osiris is the Lord of the Dead, so should Horus come, the Hawk-headed Lord, as a young child, the image of all Nature and all Man raised above Life and Death, under the supreme rule of Hadit that is Force and of Nuit that is Matter — though they are a Matter and a Force that transcend all our human conceptions of these things.
But of this more anon, in its due place.