VIII. This much may be depended upon: the, religious rites and ceremonies of the Egyptians were never instituted upon irrational grounds, never built upon mere fable and superstition, but founded with a view to promote the morality and happiness of those who were to observe them, or at least to preserve the memory of some valuable piece of history, or to represent to us some of the phenomena of nature. As concerning the abhorrence which is expressed for onions, it is wholly improbable that this detestation is owing to the loss of Diktys, who, whilst he was under the guardianship of Isis, is supposed to have fallen into the river and to have been drowned as he was reaching after a bunch of them. No, the true reason of their abstinence from onions is because they are observed to flourish most and to be in the greatest vigour at the wane of the moon, and also because they are entirely useless to them either in their feasts 1 or in their times of abstinence and purification, for in the former
case they make tears come from those who use them, and in the latter they create thirst. For much the same reason they likewise look upon the pig as an impure animal, and to be avoided, observing it to be most apt to engender upon the decrease of the moon, and they think that those who drink its milk are more subject to leprosy and such-like cutaneous diseases than others. The custom of abstaining from the flesh of the pig 1 is not always observed, for those who sacrifice a sow to Typhon once a year, at the full moon, afterwards eat its flesh. The reason they give for this practice is this: Typhon being in pursuit of this animal at that season of the moon, accidentally found the wooden chest wherein was deposited the body of Osiris, which he immediately pulled to pieces. This story, however, is not generally admitted, there being some who look upon it, as they do many other relations of the same kind, as founded upon some mistake or misrepresentation. All agree, however, in saying that so great was the abhorrence which the ancient Egyptians expressed for whatever tended to promote luxury, expense, and voluptuousness, that in order to expose it as much as possible they erected a column in one of the temples of Thebes, full of curses against their king Meinis, who first drew them off from their
former frugal and parsimonious course of life. The immediate cause for the erection of the pillar is thus given: Technatis, 1 the father of Bocchoris, leading an army against the Arabians, and his baggage and provisions not coming up to him as soon as he expected, was therefore obliged to eat some of the very poor food which was obtainable, and having eaten, he lay down on the bare ground and slept very soundly. This gave him a great affection for a mean and frugal diet, and induced him to curse the memory of Meinis, and with the permission of the priests he made these curses public by cutting them upon a pillar. 2
208:1 Bunches of onions were offered to the dead at all periods of Egyptian history, and they were regarded as typical of the "white teeth" of Horus. The onion was largely used in medicine.
209:1 The pig was associated with Set, or Typhon, and the black variety was specially abominated because it was a black pig which struck Horus in the eye, and damaged it severely. See Book of the Dead, Chap. CXII.