Mysteries of Isis and Osiris
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|This fifteen-part ceiling painting is the most splendid object in the collection of the Episcopal Museum of Trier, Germany. The frescos were reconstructed from the remains of a great 4th century A.D. Roman villa. The frescos once decorated the ceiling of the villa and were destroyed when the Trier Cathedral was built. When excavated in the late 20th century, the frescos consisted of approximately 30,000 fragments. Reconstruction was completed in 1980 after more than ten years of work. Many of the images appear to represent scenes from the great Latin novel The Metamorphoses by Apuleius, including a portrait of Apuleius himself. However, the central scene has been identified as the Empress Fausta, wife of the Emperor Constantine the Great.
|This image of Lucius Apuleius, is one of fifteen frescos (shown at the left), that had been painted on the ceiling of a 4th century A.D. villa in the Roman city of Trier. The frescos were restored in 1980 and are now on display in the Trier Episcopal Museum, Germany.
The surviving literature of Classical Antiquity includes several novels and Metamorphoses (The Golden Ass) written in Latin by Apuleius is perhaps the most famous. The story is about the adventures of a man named Lucius who is magically turned into a donkey. The work is mostly about his many trials and tribulations until at last he encounters the Goddess Isis in Egypt who changes him back into a man. The last part of the book, Book 11, is mainly about Lucius' study and initiation into the mysteries of Isis and Osiris. The ancients regarded these mysteries as sacred secrets and initiates would die rather than reveal them. Apuleius' novel is the only surviving text that provides even a semblance of this mystery initiation ceremony. Apuleius tells us that initiation brought salvation at the hands of the Goddess; the initiation ceremony was a kind of voluntary death and salvation through divine grace that is very similar to the Jesus story in the New Testament.
The following is an English translation made by William Adlington in 1566 of Book 11 (Chapters 47 and 48) that pertains to this initiation:
ELEVENTH BOOK -- FORTY-SEVENTH CHAPTER
How Apuleius by Roses and Prayer Returned to His Human
When midnight came that I had slept my first sleep, I awaked with sudden fear, and saw the Moon shining bright, as when she is at the full, and seeming as though she leaped out of the Sea. Then thought I with my self, that was the most secret time, when the Goddess Ceres had most puissance and force, considering that all humane things be governed by her providence: and not only all beasts private and tame, but also all wild and savage beasts be under her protection. And considering that all bodies in the heavens, the earth and the seas, be by her increasing motions increased, and by her diminishing motions diminished: as weary of all my cruel fortune and calamity, I found good hope and sovereign remedy, though it were very late, to be delivered from all my misery, by invocation and prayer, to the excellent beauty of the Goddess, whom I saw shining before mine eyes, wherefore shaking off my drowsy sleep, I arose with a joyful face, and moved by a great affection to purify my self, I plunged my self seven times into the water of the Sea, which number of seven is convenient and agreeable to holy and divine things, as the worthy and sage Philosopher Pythagoras hath declared. Then with a weeping countenance, I made this Orison to the puissant Goddess, saying:
O blessed Queen of Heaven, whether thou be the Dame Ceres which art the original and motherly source of all fruitful things in earth, who after the finding of thy daughter Proserpine, through the great joy which thou did presently conceive, made barren and unfruitful ground to be plowed and sown, and now thou inhabits in the land of Eleusius; or whether thou be the celestial Venus, who in the beginning of the world did couple together all kind of things with an engendered love, by an eternal propagation of humane kind, art now worshipped within the Temples of the Parthos, thou which art the sister of the God Phoebus, who nourishes so many people by the generation of beasts, and art now adored at the sacred places of Ephesus, thou which art horrible Proserpine, by reason of the deadly howlings which thou yieldest, that hast power to stop and put away the invasion of the hags and Ghosts which appear unto men, and to keep them down in the closures of the earth: thou which art worshipped in divers manners, and doest illuminate all the borders of the earth by thy feminine shape, thou which nourishes all the fruits of the world by thy vigor and force; with whatsoever name or fashion it is lawful to call upon thee, I pray thee, to end my great travail and misery, and deliver me from the wretched fortune, which had so long time pursued me. Grant peace and rest if it please thee to my adversities, for I have endured too much labor and peril. Remove from me my shape of mine Ass, and render to me my pristine estate, and if I have offended in any point of divine Majesty, let me rather dye then live, for I am full weary of my life.
When I had ended this orison, and discovered my plaints to the Goddess, I fortuned to fall asleep, and by and by appeared unto me a divine and venerable face, worshipped even of the Gods themselves. Then by little and little I seemed to see the whole figure of her body, mounting out of the sea and standing before me, wherefore I purpose to describe her divine semblance, if the poverty of my humane speech will suffer me, or her divine power give me eloquence thereto. First she had a great abundance of hair, dispersed and scattered about her neck, on the crown of her head she bare many garlands interlaced with flowers, in the middle of her forehead was a compass in fashion of a glass, or resembling the light of the Moon, in one of her hands she bare serpents, in the other, blades of corn, her vestment was of fine silk yielding divers colors, sometime yellow, sometime rosy, sometime flamey, and sometime (which troubled my spirit sore) dark and obscure, covered with a black robe in manner of a shield, and pleated in most subtle fashion at the skirts of her garments, the welts appeared comely, whereas here and there the stars glimpsed, and in the middle of them was placed the Moon, which shone like a flame of fire, round about the robe was a coronet or garland made with flowers and fruits. In her right hand she had a tumbrel of brass, which gave a pleasant sound, in her left hand she bare a cup of gold, out of the mouth whereof the serpent Aspis lifted up his head, with a swelling throat, her odoriferous feet were covered with shoes interlaced and wrought with victorious palm. Thus the divine shape breathing out the pleasant spice of fertile Arabia, disdained not with her divine voice to utter these words unto me:
Behold Lucius I am come, thy weeping and prayers hath moved me to succor thee.
I am she that is the natural mother of all things, mistress and governess of all the Elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of powers divine, Queen of Heaven, the principal of the Gods celestial, the light of the Goddess; at my will the planets of the air, the wholesome winds of the Seas, and the silences of Hell be disposed; my name, my divinity is adored throughout all the world in divers manners, in variable customs and in many names, for the Phrygians call me the mother of the Gods; the Athenians, Minerva; the Cyprians, Venus; the Candians, Diana; the Sicilians Proserpine; the Elusions, Ceres; some Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate; and principally the Ethiopians which dwell in the Orient, and the Egyptians which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine, and by their proper ceremonies are accustomed to worship me, do call me Queen Isis.
Behold I am
come to take pity of thy fortune and tribulation, behold I am present to favor
and aid thee, leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away all thy sorrow,
for behold the healthful day which is ordained by my providence, therefore be
ready to attend to my commandment. This day which shall come after this night,
is dedicated to my service, by an eternal religion, my Priests and Ministers
doe accustom after the tempests of the Sea, be ceased, to offer in my name a
new ship as a first fruit of my Navigation. I command thee not to profane or
despise the sacrifice in any wise, for the great Priest shall carry this day
following in procession by my exhortation, a Garland of Roses, next the tumbrel
of his right hand: follow thou my procession amongst the people, and when thou
comest to the Priest make as though thou wouldst kiss his hand, but snatch at
the Roses, whereby I will put away the skin and shape of an Ass, which kind of
beast I have long time abhorred and despised, but above all things beware thou
doubt not nor fear any of those things, as hard and difficult to be brought to
pass, for in the same hour that I am come to thee, I have commanded the Priest
by a vision what he shall doe, and all the people by my commandment shall be
compelled to give thee place and say nothing! Moreover, think not that amongst
so faire and joyful Ceremonies, and in so good a company that any person shall
abhorred thy ill-favored and deformed figure, or that any man shall be so hardy,
as to blame and reprove thy sudden restoration to humane shape, whereby they
should gather or conceive any sinister opinion: and know thou this of certain,
that the residue of thy life until the
hour of death shall be bound and subject to me! And think it not an injury to be always serviceable towards me, since as by my means and benefit thou shalt become a man: thou shalt live blessed in this world, thou shalt live glorious by my guide and protection, and when thou descendest to Hell, where thou shalt see me shine in that subterranean place, shining (as thou seest me now) in the darkness of Acheron, and reigning in the deepest profundity of Styx, thou shalt worship me, as one that hath bin favorable to thee, and if I perceive that thou art obedient to my commandment, addict to my religion, and merit my divine grace, know thou, that I will prolong thy dales above the time that the fates have appointed, and the celestial Planets ordained.
When the divine Image had spoken these words, she vanished away! By and by when I awaked, I arose, having the members of my body mixed with fear, joy and sweat, and marveled at the clear presence of the puissant Goddess, and being sprinkled with the water of the sea, I recounted orderly her admonitions and divine commandments. Soon after, the darkness chased away, and the clear and golden sun arose, when as behold I saw the streets replenished with people going in a religious sort and in great triumph. All things seemed that day to be joyful, as well all manner of beasts and houses, as also the very day it self seemed to rejoice. For after the hore-frost, ensued the hot and temperate sun, whereby the little birds singing that the spring time had bin come, did chirp and sing in their steven melodiously: the mother of stars, the parent of times, and mistress of all the world: The fruitful trees rejoiced at their fertility: The barren and sterile were contented at their shadow, rendering sweet and pleasant shrills! The seas were quiet from winds and tempests: the heaven had chased away the clouds, and appeared faire and clear with his proper light. Behold then more and more appeared the pomp and processions, attired in regal manner and singing joyfully: One was girded about the middle like a man of arms: Another bare and spare, and had a cloak and high-shoes like a hunter! another was attired in a robe of silk, and socks of gold, having his hair laid out, and dressed in form of a woman! There was another bare leg harness, and bare a target, a sallet, and a spear like a martial soldier: after him marched one attired in purple with vergers before him like a magistrate! after him followed one with a maurell, a staff, a pair of pantofles, and with a gray beard, signifying a philosopher: after him went one with line, betokening a fowler, another with hooks declaring a fisher: I saw there a meek and tame bear, which in matron habit was carried on a stool: An Ape with a bonnet on his head, and covered with lawn, resembling a shepherd, and bearing a cup of gold in his hand: an Ass which had wings glued to his back, and went after an old man, whereby you would judge the one to be Pegasus, and the other Bellephoron. Amongst the pleasures and popular delectations, which wandered hither and thither, you might see the pomp of the Goddess triumphantly march forward: The woman attired in white vestments, and rejoicing, in that they bore garlands and flowers upon their heads, and spread the ways with herbs, which they bore in their aprons, where this regal and devout procession should pass: Others carried glasses on their backs, to testify obeisance to the Goddess which came after. Others bare combs of Ivory, and declared by their gesture and motions of their arms, that they were ordained and ready to dress the Goddess: Others dropped in the ways as they went Balm and other precious ointments: Then came a great number, as well of men as women, with candles, torches, and other lights, doing honor to the celestial Goddess: After that sounded the musical harmony of instruments: then came a faire company of youth, appareled in white vestments, singing both meter and verse, with a comely grade which some studious Poet had made in honor of the Muses: In the means season, arrived the blowers of trumpets, which were dedicated unto Serapes, and to the temple before them were officers and beadles, preparing room for the Goddess to pass. Then came the great company of men and women, which had taken divine orders, whose garments glistered all the streets over. The women had their hair anointed and their heads covered with linen: but the men had their crowns shaven, which were the terrene stars of the Goddess, holding in their hand instruments of brass, silver and gold, which rendered a pleasant sound.
The principal Priests which were appareled with white surpluses hanging down to the ground, baring the relics of the puissant Goddess. One carried in his hand a light, not unlike to those which we used in our houses, saving that in the middle thereof appeared a bole which rendered a more bright flame. The second attired hike the other bare in his hand an Altar, which the Goddess her self named the succor of nations. The third held a tree of palm with leaves of gold, and the verge of Mercury. The fourth showed out a token of equity by his left hand, which was deformed in every place, signifying thereby more equity then by the right hand. The same Priest carried a round vessel of gold, in form of a cap. The fifth bare a van, wrought with springs of gold, and another carried a vessel for wine: By and by after the Goddess followed a foot as men do, and specially Mercury, the messenger of the Goddess infernal and supernal, with his face sometime black, sometime fair, lifting up the head of the dog Anubis, and bearing in his left hand, his verge, and in his right hand, the branches of a palm tree, after whom followed a cow with an upright gate, representing the figure of the great Goddess, and he that guided her, marched on with much gravity. Another carried after the secrets of their religion, closed in a coffer. There was one that bare on his stomache a figure of his God, not formed like any beast, bird, savage thing or humane shape, but made by a new invention, whereby was signified that such a religion should not be discovered or revealed to any person. There was a vessel wrought with a round bottom, having on the one side, pictures figured like unto the manner of the Egyptians, and on the other side was an ear, whereupon stood the Serpent Aspis, holding out his scaly neck. Finally, came he which was appointed to my good fortune according to the promise of the Goddess. For the great Priest which bare the restoration of my human shape, by the commandment of the Goddess, Approached more and more, bearing in his left hand the tumbrel, and in the other a garland of Roses to give me, to the end I might be delivered from cruel fortune, which was always mine enemy, after the sufferance of so much calamity and pain, and after the endurance of so many perils: Then I not returning hastily, by reason of sudden joy, lest I should disturb the quiet procession with mine importunities, but going softly through the press of the people, which gave me place on every side, went after the Priest. The priest being admonished the night before, as I might well perceive stood still and holding out his hand, thrust out the garland of roses into my mouth, I (trembling) devoured with a great affection: And as soon as I had eaten them, I was not deceived of the promise made unto me. For my deformed and Assy face abated, and first the rugged hair of my body fell off, my thick skin waxed soft and tender, the hooves of my feet changed into toes, my hands returned again, my neck grew short, my head and mouth began round, my long ears were made little, my great and stony teeth waxed less like the teeth of men, and my tail which combed me most, appeared no where: then the people began to marvel, and the religious honored the Goddess, for so evident a miracle, they wondered at the visions which they saw in the night, and the facilities of my reformation, whereby they rendered testimonies of so great a benefit which I received of the Goddess. When I saw my self in such estate, I stood still a good space and said nothing, for I could not tell what to say, nor what word I should first speak, nor what thanks I should render to the Goddess, but the great Priest understanding all my fortune and misery, by divine advertisement, commanded that one should give me garments to cover me: Howbeit as soon as I was transformed from an ass to my human shape, I hid the privities of my body with my hands as shame and necessity compelled me. Then one of the company put off his upper robe and put it on my back; which done, the Priest looked upon me, with a sweet and benign voice, gain say in this sort: O my friend Lucius, after the endurance of so many labors, and the escape of so many tempests of fortune, thou art at length come to the port and haven of rest and mercy: neither did thy noble linage, thy dignity, thy doctrine, or anything prevail, but that thou hast endured so many servile pleasures, by a little folly of thy youthfulness, whereby thou hast had a sinister reward for thy unprosperous curiosity, but howsoever the blindness of fortune tormented thee in divers dangers: so it is, that now unawares to her, thou art come to this present felicity: let fortune go, and fume with fury in another place, let her find some other matter to execute her cruelty, for fortune hath no puissance against them which serve and honor our Goddess. For what availed the thieves: the beasts savage: thy great servitude: the ill and dangerous waits: the long passages: the fear of death every day? Know thou, that now thou art safe, and under the protection of her, who by her clear light doth lighten the other Gods: wherefore rejoice and take a convenient countenance to thy white habit, follow the pomp of this devout and honorable procession, to the end that such which be not devout to the Goddess, may see and acknowledge their error. Behold Lucius, thou art delivered from so great miseries, by the providence of the Goddess Isis, rejoice therefore and triumph of the victory of fortune; to the end thou may live more safe and sure, make thy self one of this holy order, dedicate thy mind to the Obsequy of our Religion, and take upon thee a voluntary yoke of ministry: And when thou begin to serve and honor the Goddess, then thou shalt feel the fruit of thy liberty: After that the great Priest had prophesied in this manner, with often breathings, he made a conclusion of his words: Then I went amongst the company of die rest and followed the procession: every one of the people knew me, and pointing at me with their fingers, said in this sort: Behold him who is this day transformed into a man by the puissance of the sovereign Goddess, verily he is blessed and most blessed that hath merited so great grace from heaven, as by the innocence of his former life, and as it were by a new regeneration is reserved to the obsequies of the Goddess. In the mean season by little and little we approached nigh unto the sea cost, even to that place where I lay the night before being an Ass. There after the images and relics were orderly disposed, the great Priest compassed about with divers pictures according to the fashion of the Egyptians, did dedicate and consecrate with certain prayers a fair ship made very cunningly, and purified the same with a torch, an egg, and Sulphur; the sail was of white linen cloth, whereon was written certain letters, which testified the navigation to be prosperous, the mast was of a great length, made of a Pine tree, round and very excellent with a shining top, the cabin was covered over with coverings of gold, and all the ship was made of Citron tree very faire; then all the people as well religious as profane took a great number of Vines, replenished with odors and pleasant smells and threw them into the sea mingled with milk, until the ship was filled up with large gifts and prosperous devotions, when as with a pleasant wind it launched out into the deep. But when they had lost the sight of the ship, every man carried again that he brought, and went toward the temple in like pomp and order as they came to the sea side. When we were come to the temple, the great priest and those which were deputed to carry the divine figures, but especially those which had long time been worshippers of the religion, went into the secret chamber of the Goddess, where they put and placed the images according to their order. This done, one of the company which was a scribe or interpreter of letters, who in form of a preacher stood up in a chair before the place of the holy college, and began to read out of a book, and to interpret to the great prince, the senate, and to all the noble order of chivalry, and generally to all the Roman people, and to all such as be under the jurisdiction of Rome, these words following (Laois Aphesus) which signified the end of their divine service and that it was lawful for every man to depart, whereat all the people gave a great shout, and replenished with much joy, bare all kind of herbs and garlands of flowers home to their houses, kissing and embracing the steps where the Goddess passed: howbeit I could not doe as the rest, for my mind would not suffer me to depart one foot away, so attentive was I to behold the beauty of the Goddess, with remembrance of the great misery I had endured.
-- FORTY-EIGHTH CHAPTER
How the parents and friends of Apuleius heard news that he was alive and in health.
In the mean season news was carried into my country (as swift as the flight of birds, or as the blast of winds) of the grace and benefit which I received of the Goddess, and of my fortune worthy to be had in memory. Then my parents friends and servants of our house understanding that I was not dead, as they were falsely informed, came towards me with great diligence to see me, as a man raised from death to life: and I which never thought to see them again, was as joyful as they, accepting and taking in good part their honest gifts and oblations that they gave, to the intent I might buy such things as was necessary for my body: for after I had made relation unto them of all my pristine misery, and present joy, I went before the face of the Goddess and hired me a house within the cloister of the temple to the end I might continually be ready to the service of the Goddess, and ordinarily frequent the company of the priests, whereby I would wholly become devout to the Goddess, and an inseparable worshipper of her divine name: It fortuned that the Goddess appeared to me oftentimes in the night persuading and commanding me to take the order of her religion, but I, though I was induced with a desirous good will, yet the fear of the same withheld me considering her obeisance was hard and difficult, the chastity of the Priests intolerable, and the life frail and subject to many inconveniences. Being thus in doubt, I refrained myself from all those things as seemed impossible.
On a night the great priest appeared unto me, presenting his lap full of treasure, and when I demanded what it signified, he answered, that it was sent me from the country of Thessaly, and that a servant of mine named Candidus was arrived likewise: when I was awake, I mused in myself what this vision should pretend, considering I had never any servant called by that name: but whatsoever it did signify, this I verily thought, that it was a foreshadow of gain and prosperous chance: while I was thus astonished I went to the temple, and tarried there till the opening of the gates, then I went in and began to pray before the face of the Goddess, the Priest prepared and set the divine things of every Altar, and pulled out the fountain and holy vessel with solemn supplication. Then they began to sing the matins of the morning, testifying thereby the hour of the prime. By and by behold arrived my servant which I had left in the country, when Fotis by error made me an Ass, bringing with him my horse, recovered by her through certain signs and tokens which I had upon my back. Then I perceived the interpretation of my dream, by reason that beside the promise of gain, my white horse was restored to me, which was signified by the argument of my servant Candidus.
This done I retired to the service of the Goddess in hope of greater benefits, considering I had received a sign and token, whereby my courage increased every day more and more to take upon me the orders and sacraments of the temple: insomuch that I oftentimes communed with the Priest, desiring him greatly to give me the degree of the religion, but he which was a man of gravity, and well renowned in the order of priesthood, deferred my affection from day to day, with comfort and better hope, as parents commonly bridle the desires of their children, when they attempt or endeavor any unprofitable thing, saying, that the day when any one should be admitted into their order is appointed by the Goddess, the Priest which should minister the sacrifice is chosen by her providence, and the necessary charges of the ceremonies is allotted by her commandment, all which things he willed me to attend with marvelous patience, and that I should beware either of too much hastiness, or too great slackness, considering that there was like danger, if being called I should delay: or not called I should be hasty: moreover he said that there was none of his company either of so desperate a mind, or so rash and hardy, as to enterprise any thing without the commandment of the Goddess, whereby he should commit a deadly offence, considering that it was in her power to damn and save all persons, and if any were at the point of death, and in the way to damnation, so that he were capable to receive the secrets of the Goddess, it was in her power by divine providence to reduce him to the path of health, as by a certain kind of regeneration: Finally he said that I must attend the celestial precept, although it was evident and plain, that the Goddess had already vouchsafed to call and appoint me to her ministry, and to will me refrain from profane and unlawful meats, as those Priests which were already received, to the end I might come more apt and clean to the knowledge of the secrets of religion. Then was I obedient unto these words, and attentive with meek quietness, and probable taciturnity, I daily served at the temple: in the end the wholesome gentleness of the Goddess did nothing deceive me, for in the night she appeared to me in a vision, showing that the day was come which I had wished for so long, she told me what provision and charges I should be at, and how that she had appointed her principal Priest Mythra to be minister with me in my sacrifices.
When I heard these divine commandments, I greatly rejoiced: and arose before day to speak with the great Priest, whom I fortuned to espy coming out of his chamber: Then I saluted him, and thought with my self to ask and demand his counsel with a bold courage, but as soon as he perceived me, he began first to say: O Lucius now know I well that thou art most happy and blessed, whom the divine Goddess doth so greatly accept with mercy, why dost thou delay? Behold the day which thou did desire when as thou shalt receive at my hands the order of religion, and know the most pure secrets of the Gods, whereupon the old man took me by the hand, and lead me to the gate of the great temple, where at the first entry he made a solemn celebration, and after morning sacrifice ended, brought out of the secret place of the temple books, partly written with unknown characters, and partly painted with figures of beasts declaring briefly every sentence, with tops and tails, turning in fashion of a wheels, which were strange and impossible to be read of the profane people: There he interpreted to me such things as were necessary to the use and preparation of mine order. This done, I gave charge to certain of my companions to buy liberally, whatsoever was needful and convenient, then he brought me to the next bains accompanied with all the religious sort, and demanding pardon of the Goddess, washed me and purified my body, according to custom. After this, when noon approached, he brought me back again to the temple, presented me before the face of the Goddess, giving a charge of certain secret things unlawful to be uttered, and commanding me, and generally all the rest, to fast by the space of ten continuous days, without eating of any beast, or drinking any wine, which thing I observed with a marvelous contingency. Then behold the day approached, when as the sacrifice should be done, and when night came there arrived on every coast, a great multitude of Priests, who according to their order offered me many presents and gifts: then was all the Laity and profane people commanded to depart, and when they had put on my back a linen robe, they brought me to the most secret and sacred place of all the temple. You would peradventure demand (you studious reader) what was said and done there, verily I would tell you if it were lawful for me to tell, you should know if it were convenient for you to hear, but both thy ears, and my tongue shall incur the like pain of rash curiosity: Howbeit, I will content thy mind for this present time, which peradventure is somewhat religious and given to some devotion, listen therefore and believe it to be true: Thou shalt understand that I approached near unto Hell, even to the gates of Proserpine, and after that, I was ravished throughout all the Elements, I returned to my proper place: About midnight I saw the Sun shine, I saw likewise the Gods celestial and Gods infernal, before whom I presented myself, and worshipped them: Behold now have I told thee, which although thou hast heard, yet it is necessary thou conceal it; this have I declared without offence, for the understanding of the profane.
When morning came, and the solemnities were finished, I came forth sanctified and in a religious habit, whereof I am not forbidden to speak, considering that many persons saw me at that time: there I was commanded to stand upon a seat of wood, which stood in the middle of the temple, before the figure and remembrance of the Goddess; my vestment was of fine linen, covered and embroidered with flowers. I had a precious cape upon my shoulders hanging down to the ground, whereon were beasts wrought of divers colors as Indian dragons, and Hyperborean Gryphons, whom in form of birds, the other world doth engender; the Priests commonly call such a habit, a celestial Stole: in my right hand I carried a light torch, and a garland of flowers upon my head, with Palm leaves sprouting out on every side: I was adorned like unto the Sun, and made in fashion of an Image, in such sort that all the people compassed about to behold me: then they began to solemnize the feast of the nativity, and the new procession with sumptuous baskets and delicate meats: the third day was likewise celebrated with like ceremonies with a religious dinner, and with all the consummation of the order: when I had continued there a good space, I conceived a marvelous great pleasure and consolation in beholding ordinarily the Image of the Goddess, who at length admonished me to depart homeward, not without rendering of thanks, which although it were not sufficient, yet they were according to my power. Howbeit I could not be persuaded to depart, before I had fallen prostrate before the face of the Goddess, and wiped her steps with my face, whereby I began so greatly to weep and sigh that my words were interrupted, and as devouring my prayer, I began to say in this sort: O holy and blessed dame, the perpetual comfort of humane kind, who by thy bounty and grace nourishes all the world, and hearest a great affection to the adversities of the miserable, as a loving mother thou takest no rest, neither art thou idle at any time in giving thy benefits, and succoring all men, as well on land as sea; thou art she that puts away all storms and dangers from mans life by thy right hand, whereby likewise thou restrains the fatal dispositions, appeases the great tempests of fortune and keeps back the course of the stars: the Gods supernal doe honor thee: the Gods infernal have thee in reverence: thou environs all the world, thou givest light to the Sun, thou governs the world, thou treads down the power of hell: By thy means the times return, the Planets rejoice, the Elements serve: at thy commandment the winds do blow, the clouds increase, the seeds prosper, and the fruits prevail, the birds of the air, the beasts of the hill, the serpents of the den, and the fishes of the sea, do tremble at thy majesty, but my spirit is not able to give thee sufficient praise, my patrimony is unable to satisfy thy sacrifice, my voice hath no power to utter that which I think, no if I had a thousand mouths and so many tongues: Howbeit as a good religious person, and according to my estate, I will always keep thee in remembrance and close thee within my breast.
When I had
ended mine orison, I went to embrace the great Priest Mythra my spiritual
father, and to demand his pardon, considering I was unable to recompense the
good which he had done to me: after great greeting and thanks I departed from
him to visit my parents and friends; and within a while after by the exhortation
of the Goddess. I made up my packet, and took shipping toward the City of Rome,
where with a prosperous wind I arrived about the xii. day of December. And the
greatest desire that I had there, was daily to make my prayers to the sovereign
Goddess Isis, who by reason of the place where her temple was built, was
called Campensis, and continually adored of the people of Rome. Her minister and
worshipper was I, howbeit I was a stranger to her Church, and unknown to her
When the year was ended, and the Goddess warned me again to receive this new order and consecration, I marveled greatly what it should signify, and what should happen, considering that I was a sacred person already, but it fortuned that while I partly reasoned with myself, and partly examining the thing with the Priests and Bishops, there came a new and marvelous thought in my mind, that is to say, I was only religious to the Goddess Isis, but not sacred to the religion of great Osiris the sovereign father of all the Goddesses, between whom, although there was a religious unity and concord, yet there was a great difference of order and ceremony. And because it was necessary that I should likewise be a minister unto Osiris, there was no long delay: for in the night after, appeared unto me one of that order, covered with linen robes, holding in his hands spears wrapped in Ivy, and other things not convenient to declare, which then he left in my chamber, and sitting in my seat, recited to me such things as were necessary for the sumptuous banquet of mine entry. And to the end I might know him again, he showed me how the ankle of his left foot was somewhat maimed, which caused him a little to halt.
After that I manifestly knew the will of the God Osiris, when matins was ended, I went from one to another, to find him out which had the halting mark on his foot, according as I learned by my vision; at length I found it true: for I perceived one of the company of the Priests who had not only the token of his foot, but the stature and habit of his body, resembling in every point as he appeared in the night: he was called Asinius Marcellus, a name not much disagreeing from my transformation. By and by I went to him, which knew well enough all the matter, as being monished by like precept in the night: for the night before as he dressed the flowers and garlands about the head of the God Osiris, he understood by the mouth of the image which told the predestinations of all men, how he had sent a poor man of Madura, to whom he should minister his sacraments, to the end he should receive a reward by divine providence, and the other glory, for his virtuous studies. When I saw my self this deputed unto religion, my desire was stopped by reason of poverty, for I had spent a great part of my goods in travel and peregrination, but most of all in the City of Rome, whereby my low estate withdrew me a great while.
In the end being oft times stirred forward, not without great trouble of mind, I was constrained to sell my robe for a little money: howbeit sufficient for all my affaires. Then the Priest spake unto me saying, How is it that for a little pleasure thou art not afraid to sell thy vestments, and entering into so great ceremonies, first to fall into poverty? Prepare thyself, and abstain from all animal meats, as beasts and fish. In the means season I frequented the sacrifices of Serapis, which were done in the night, which thing gave me great comfort to my peregrination, and ministered unto me more plentiful living, considering I gained some money in haunting the court, by reason of my Latin tongue.
Immediately after I was eftsoones called and admonished by the God Osiris, to receive a third order of religion. Then I was greatly astonished, because I could not tell what this new vision signified, or what the intent of the celestial God was, doubting least the former Priests had given me ill counsel, and fearing that they had not faithfully instructed me: being in this manner as it were incensed the God Osiris appeared to me the night following, and giving me admonition said, There is no occasion why thou shouldst be afraid with so often order of religion, as though there were somewhat omitted, but that thou shouldst rather rejoice, since as it hath pleased the Gods to call thee three times, when as there was never yet any person that achieved to the order but once: wherefore thou may think thyself happy for so great benefits. And know thou that the religion which thou must now receive, is right necessary, if thou mean to persevere in the worshipping of the Goddess, and to make solemnity on the festival day with the blessed habit, which thing shalt be a glory and renown to thee.
After this sort, the divine majesty persuaded me in my sleep, whereupon by and by I went towards the Priest, and declared all that which I had seen, then I fasted ten days according to the custom, and of mine own proper will I abstained longer then I was commanded: and verily I did nothing repent of the pain which I had taken, and of the charges which I was at, considering that the divine providence had given me such an order, that I gained much money in pleading of causes: Finally after a few days, the great God Osiris appeared to me in the night, not disguised in any other form, but in his own essence, commanding me that I should be an Advocate in the court, and not fear the slander and envy of ill persons, which bear me stomache and grudge by reason of my doctrine, which I had gotten by much labor: moreover, he would not that I should be any longer of the number of his Priests, but he allotted me to be one of the Decurions and Senators: and after he appointed me a place within the ancient palace, which was erected in the time of Sulla, where I executed my office in great joy with a shaven Crown.