Saturday, October 04, 2008

Nile bride sacrifice a myth

Egypt Daily Star News (Ahmed Maged)

The ancient Egyptian custom of offering a virgin as a sacrifice to the river Nile every year to instigate a flood is a big historical error, Egyptology researcher Bassam El Shammaa told Daily News Egypt.

“The myth of Arous El Nil (Bride of the Nile) has tarnished the image of ancient Egyptians who by nature hated violence and were only content to see blood at the altar,” El Shammaa said.

According to some versions of history, this Egyptian custom was practiced until the Islamic conquest of Egypt when Caliph Omar Ibn El Khattab banned the pagan ritual.

According to Egyptian historian Al Maqrizi (1364-1442) in his “El Khutat El Maqrizia” (The Maqrizian Plans), when the Arab armies led by commander Amr Ibn El Aas entered Egypt, Egypt’s Copts requested to uphold the annual ritual prior to the time of the flood.

When Ibn El Aas referred the request to the Caliph, the latter sent a letter to Al Mokawkas, the last Coptic governor of Egypt, and asked him to throw the letter in the Nile instead.

Containing words of supplication to God to bring about the flood, the letter’s benediction was said to have caused the Nile to increase its volume overnight to 16 cubits, a miracle that persuaded Egyptians to renounce the ancient custom, claimed Al Maqrizi.

El Shammaa, however, doubts the authenticity of this story.

“That the Copts had approached Ibn El Aas to ask him to sacrifice a bride isn’t in line with Christian belief which bans all such pagan customs. How many Egyptians were found mummified after Christianity spread in Egypt? None,” he argued.

See the above page for the full story.

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