by Acharya S/D.M. Murdock
Jesus Christ is not the only god supposedly born of a virgin on December 25th. So too was Horus of Egypt.
In my book Suns of God: Krishna, Buddha and Christ Unveiled appears a discussion of the Egyptian solar deity Horus, who was said to have been born of a virgin on “December 25th” or the winter solstice. As an example of one writer making this claim, in The Story of Religious Controversy, Joseph McCabe, a Catholic priest for many years, writes:
…Virginity in goddesses is a relative matter.
Whatever we make of the original myth…Isis seems to have been originally a virgin (or, perhaps, sexless) goddess, and in the later period of Egyptian religion she was again considered a virgin goddess, demanding very strict abstinence from her devotees. It is at this period, apparently, that the birthday of Horus was annually celebrated, about December 25th, in the temples. As both Macrobius and the Christian writer [of the “Paschal Chronicle”] say, a figure of Horus as a baby was laid in a manger, in a scenic reconstruction of a stable, and a statue of Isis was placed beside it. Horus was, in a sense, the Savior of mankind. He was their avenger against the powers of darkness; he was the light of the world. His birth-festival was a real Christmas before Christ.
“The birthday of Horus was annually celebrated, about December 25th.”
Here we see the contention that Horus’s mother, Isis, was a virgin and that the ancient Latin author Macrobius (5th cent. AD/CE) and the compilers of a text called the “Paschal Chronicle” refer to the annual Egyptian celebration of the birth of a baby “laid in a manger.”
The Chronicon Paschale
As I explain in Suns of God, the Chronicon Paschale, or Paschal Chronicle, also known as the Chronicle of Alexandria, is a compilation begun in the third century and finalized in the 7th century AD/CE that seeks to establish a Christian chronology from “creation” to the year 628 CE, focusing on the date of Easter.
In establishing Easter, the Christian authors naturally discussed astronomy/astrology, since such is the basis of the spring celebration, a pre-Christian festival founded upon the vernal equinox, or spring, when the “sun of God” is resurrected in full from his winter death. Hence, Easter is the resurrection of the sun.
Concerning the Paschal Chronicle, in The Origin of All Religious Worship (237), French mythicist scholar Charles Francois Dupuis (1742-1809), a professor at the Collège de France, states:
…the author of the Chronicle of Alexandria…expresses himself in the following words: “The Egyptians have consecrated up to this day the child-birth of a virgin and the nativity of her son, who is exposed in a ‘crib’ to the adoration of the people. King Ptolemy, having asked the reason of this custom, he was answered that it was a mystery, taught by a respectable prophet to their fathers.”
“The Egyptians have consecrated up to this day the child-birth of a virgin and the nativity of her son, who is exposed in a ‘crib’ to the adoration of the people.”
Providing another translation of the pertinent passage, the author of Christian Mythology Unveiled cites the “most ancient chronicles of Alexandria,” which “testify as follows”:
“To this day, Egypt has consecrated the pregnancy of a virgin, and the nativity of her son, whom they annually present in a cradle, to the adoration of the people; and when king Ptolemy, three hundred and fifty years before our Christian era, demanded of the priests the significance of this religious ceremony, they told him it was a mystery.”
Following up on the numerous and consistent leads, in my book Christ in Egypt: The Horus-Jesus Connection, I include 120 pages on the subjects of the Egyptian virgin birth on the winter solstice, providing primary sources and the works of highly credentialed authorities from relevant fields. One original Greek manuscript of this passage in the Chronicon is as follows:
Εως νυν Αιγυπτιοι θεοποιουσιν Παρθενου λοχον και ΒρεΦος εν Φατνη τιθεντες προσκυνουσιν. Και Πτολεμαιω τω Βασιλει την αιτιαν πυνθανομενω ελεγον, οτι παραδοτον εστι μυστηριον υπο οσιου Προφητου τοις πατρασιν ημων παραδοθεν.
Preceding this discussion, the Chronicon author(s) contends that the biblical prophet Jeremiah was in Egypt (seven) centuries before the common era, where he taught the doctrine of the virgin-born savior in a manger, thus explaining its presence in pre-Christian Egyptian religion. As we know, however, the virgin-mother motif precedes biblical doctrine and represents a very ancient religious and spiritual concept.
Macrobius (395–423 AD/CE)
Confirming the contentions in the Chronicon, ancient Latin writer Macrobius (Saturnalia, I, XVIII:10) also reported on the annual Egyptian “Christmas” celebration, specifying the time as the winter solstice or “December 25th”:
…at the winter solstice the sun would seem to be a little child, like that which the Egyptians bring forth from a shrine on an appointed day, since the day is then at its shortest and the god is accordingly shown as a tiny infant.
Here we can see the precise meaning of the theme of the newborn sun at the winter solstice, a motif representing the lengthening of days after the darkest time of the year. Egyptologist Dr. Bojana Mojsov explains further the significance in Egypt: “The symbol of the savior-child was the eye of the sun newly born every year at the winter solstice.”
“At the winter solstice, the sun would seem to be a little child, like that which the Egyptians bring forth from a shrine on an appointed day, since the day is then at its shortest.”
Epiphanius (c. 310-403 AD/CE)
In Christ in Egypt appears a lengthy analysis of the works of early Church father Epiphanius, including his discussion of the Egyptian winter-solstice celebration, which in Panarion adversus Haereses (51, 22.4-11) he names as “Chronia” and “Cicellia.” Intriguingly, Epiphanius’s account is censored in the Migne Greek edition to remove the parts about the winter solstice reverence of a babe in a manger born to a virgin. With difficulty, I was able to find the original, uncensored Greek passage and reference it in Christ in Egypt (84ff).
Epiphanius discusses the Kikellia or winter-solstice festival as taking place in the large Egyptian city of Alexandria “at the so-called Virgin’s shrine.” Railing against “those who guilefully preside over the cult of idols” and who “in many places deceitfully celebrate a very great festival on the very night of the Epiphany” (51, 22.8), Epiphanius next describes this festival as follows (51, 22.9-10):
First, at Alexandria, in the Coreum, as they call it; it is a very large temple, the shrine of Core. They stay up all night singing hymns to the idol with a flute accompaniment. And when they have concluded their nightlong vigil torchbearers descend into an underground shrine after cockcrow…and bring up a wooden image which is seated naked a litter. It has a sign of the cross inlaid with gold on its forehead, two other such signs, [one] on each hand, and two other signs, [one] actually [on each of] its two knees—altogether five signs with a gold impress. And they carry the image itself seven times round the innermost shrine with flutes, tambourines and hymns, hold a feast, and take it back down to its place underground. And when you ask them what this mystery means they reply that today at this hour Core—that is, the virgin—gave birth to Aeo.
“This sacred image in Egypt constitutes the divine son of the holy virgin mother within Paganism.”
Here we find a Pagan sacred icon with a cross on its forehead, like that made by Catholic priests on the heads of Christian worshippers. We also discover this sacred image constitutes the divine son of the holy virgin mother within Paganism! This Pagan virgin mother was styled Core or Kore, meaning “maiden,” as another name for the Greek nature goddess Persephone, who descended each year into the underworld, to return at springtime, bringing life back with her.
The Virgin Birth at Petra
This same event of the Pagan virgin goddess giving birth to the divine son was celebrated also by Arabs at the ancient site of Petra in Jordan, as likewise recounted by Epiphanius (51, 22.11):
This also goes on in the city of Petra, in the idolatrous temple there. (Petra is the capital city of Arabia, the scriptural Edom.) They praise the virgin with hymns in the Arab language and call her Chaamu—that is, Core, or virgin—in Arabic. And the child who is born of her they call Dusares, that is, “only son of the Lord.” And this is also done that night in the city of Elusa, as it is there in Petra, and in Alexandria.
Regarding Epiphanius’s account, in a chapter entitled “The Virgin Birth,” Joseph Campbell writes:
We learn from the fourth-century saint and churchman Epiphanius (ca. 315-402), for example, of an annual festival observed in Alexandria on January 6, the date assigned to the Epiphany and (originally) the Nativity of Christ, and to his Baptism as well. The pagan occasion was in celebration of the birth of the year-god Aion to the virgin goddess Kore, a Hellenized transformation of Isis.
As I also discuss in Suns of God, Christ in Egypt and elsewhere, the date of January 6th was one of several winter-solstice festivals in antiquity, likewise celebrated by the Orthodox Church as Christ’s “birthday.” As we can see, the esteemed mythologist Campbell comprehended that this “Christmas” celebration predates Christianity and revolves around the virgin birth of the “year god.” This “only son of the Lord” Aeo or Aion is also a “light god” and is identified with the Greek god Dionysus and other solar deities. Moreover, here we see the identification of this virgin with the goddess Isis, whose son is Horus. (For more information and citations, see Christ in Egypt.)
Plutarch (46-120 AD/CE)
As concerns Horus in particular serving as the “light god,” it should be noted that he was syncretized often with the sun god Ra as “Ra-Horakhty” or “Horus of the Two Horizons,” representing the rising and setting sun. This “Horus the Child” was also known to the Greeks as Harpocrates. In this form, Horus thus is born daily, including and especially at the winter solstice.
“About the time of the winter solstice, Isis gave birth to Harpocrates, imperfect and premature.”
In this regard, we learn from one of the most famous historians of the first century, Plutarch, that Horus the Child/Harpocrates was “born about the winter solstice, unfinished and infant-like…” (Isis and Osiris (65, 387C); Babbitt, 153) Plurarch’s original Greek is as follows:
τίκτεσθαι δὲ τὸν Ἁρποκράτην περὶ τροπὰς χειμερινὰς ἀτελῆ καὶ νεαρὸν ἐν τοῖς προανθοῦσι καὶ προβλαστάνουσι
In this same passage, we learn further from Plutarch that the Egyptians “observe the festival of her child-birth after the vernal equinox.” This mythical motif of the two births of Horus at these times of the winter solstice and vernal equinox makes sense when one considers that we are discussing nature and solar deities. The astrotheological meaning of these two solar “births” connotes the increasing light after the solstice and the final triumph of day over night at the vernal equinox, after which the days begin to become longer than the night.
Other indications of the Egyptian observation of the winter solstice can be found in hieroglyphs, as I relate in Christ in Egypt (94): As Egyptologist Dr. Heinrich Brugsch explains, the Egyptians not only abundantly recorded and revered the time of the winter solstice, they also created a number of hieroglyphs to depict it, including and image of the goddess-sisters Isis and Nephthys with the solar disc floating above their hands over a lifegiving ankh – the looped Egyptian cross – as the sun’s rays extend down to the cross symbol.
This image of the sun between Isis and Nephthys, which is sometimes depicted without the ankh, is described in an inscription at Edfu regarding Ptolemy VII (fl. 145 BCE?) and applied to the winter solstice, translated as: “The sun coming out of the sky-ocean into the hands of the siblings Isis and Nephthys.” This image very much looks like the sun being born, which is sensible, since, again, Horus the Child or Harpocrates, the morning sun, was born every day, including at the winter solstice.
“Horus the Child, the morning sun, was born every day, including at the winter solstice.”
There are many other artifacts in Egypt that demonstrate Horus’s association with the winter solstice, including his temples aligned to the rising sun at that time of the year. Indeed, the Horus/winter-solstice data is so extensive that I was compelled to include a 40-page chapter in Christ in Egypt entitled “Born on December 25th.”
The Feast of Sokar
In the winter-solstice chapter in CIE also appears a discussion of the feast of the Egyptian god Sokar or Seker, syncretized with both Osiris and Horus, appearing as the newborn sun in the shape of a baby falcon or hawk, a solar symbol because the bird flies highest in the sky. Like Osiris, Sokar is considered a form of the sun god as he passes through the underworld, to be born as Horus at the dawn. As such, he is represented as a triune god Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, who is present at the birth of the baby Sokar during the winter solstice.
“In Egypt, the festival of the baby sun god Sokar occurs on 26 Khoiak, corresponding to December 22nd.”
As I also state in Christ in Egypt, Sokar’s festival occurs on 26 Khoiak, as related in the Calendar of Hathor at Dendera, corresponding at the turn of the common era to December 22nd. The longstanding ritual of Sokar being carried out of the temple on this day in an “ark” closely resembles the commentary by Epiphanius, the Paschal Chronicle and Macrobius concerning the Egyptians bringing forth the baby sun born of a virgin at the winter solstice.
This Egyptian “Christmas” celebration – again, styled by Epiphanius the “Kikellia” – has also been called the “Rites of Isis” and has been asserted elsewhere to begin a few days earlier than December 25th, such as the “true” solstice of the 21st or 22nd, corresponding to the Sokar festival.
The 3,400-Year-Old Reborn Sun
Sokar/Seker as the “reborn sun” was conceived at least 3,400 years ago, as related by famed astronomer Dr. Gerald Hawkins:
In Kherouef’s tomb, circa 1400 B.C., it says, “The doors of the underworld are open, O Sokaris, sun in the sky. O reborn one, you are seen brilliant on the horizon and you give back Egypt her beauty each time the sky is pierced with rays…”
Regarding the “feast of Sokar,” Amanda-Alice Maravelia states, “The festival of Sokar was celebrated with considerable pomp, probably rivaling the festival of Opet; it was the continuity of the cult of the divine king connected with the resurrection of the god.” Furthermore, it was claimed that Osiris died during the feast of Sokar, in other words, around the winter solstice.
“The festival was connected with the winter solstice, with the ‘little sun,’ as the Egyptians called it at that time.”
Concerning this feast, John Gardner Wilkinson remarks:
At the festival of the god his bark was borne in solemn procession round the walls of the temple of Sokaris…. The festival was connected with the winter solstice, with the “little sun,” as the Egyptians called it at that time. In the Ptolemaic period it fell on the morning of the 26th of Khoiak (22nd December), while in earlier times it would seem to have been held in the evening….
Brugsch likewise discusses the fest of Sokar, which was held on the 26th of Koiak, equivalent to December 22nd in the Julian calendar and December 25th in the calendar of Eudoxus (410/408-355/347 BCE). In the temple of Dendera, Brugsch relates, we find a description of the 26th of Koiak—December 22nd also in the Alexandrian calendar—as representing the day of the winter solstice and of the “Rising of Osiris as the sun and moon.”
“December 22nd (26 Koiak) represents the day of the winter solstice and of the ‘Rising of Osiris as the sun and moon.'”
Moreover, like Horus, one of Sokar’s major roles is that of the resurrected Osiris; hence, the baby sun as a hawk/falcon emerges at the winter solstice as the resurrected Osiris. Thus, we can state once more that the Egyptian sun god dies and is reborn at the winter solstice, precisely as we find in other cultures. (For more information on Sokar, as well as citations, see Christ in Egypt.)
Other Solstice Celebrations
The winter-solstice celebrations were so important that at times they exceeded the one or two days of the actual solstice in the Gregorian calendar, i.e., December 21st or 22nd. Solstice celebrations therefore do not necessarily fall on the traditional time of the solstice – “solstice” meaning “sun stands still” – but may occur up to several days before or after, such as is exemplified by the Roman celebration of Saturnalia, which began on the December 17th and ended on the 23rd.
As demonstrated in my 2010 Astrotheology Calendar, the entire month of December, along with a couple of weeks before and after, has been filled with winter celebrations of sun and light deities in cultures globally. In my calendar, I converted the dates of the Egyptian wandering calendar to when these festivities would have occurred in the year 1 AD/CE.
As we can see, around the year 1 AD/CE the death and resurrection of Osiris were aligned in the wandering Egyptian calendar to the winter solstice, when the birth of Sokar also occurred. Both of these gods are syncretized with Horus.
“Around the year 1 AD/CE, the death and resurrection of Osiris were aligned to the winter solstice, as was the birth of Sokar, both of whom were identified with Horus.”
The Sun Born of the Celestial Virgin
One of the meanings behind the virgin-born solar-deity myth is the pristine dawn birthing the new sun, while it was also said that the moon reflecting the sun’s rays likewise gave birth to the solar entity. Another connotation is the constellation of Virgo, in Ptolemaic times identified with Isis: “According to [Pseudo-]Eratosthenes, the celestial Virgin was supposed to be Isis, that is, the symbol of the returning year.”
In a text called The Katasterismoi or Catasterismi, “Pseudo-Eratosthenes” includes an essay on the constellation of Virgo called Παρθένος or “Parthenos,” a Greek word usually rendered “virgin.” According to this text, which dates to the 1st to 2nd centuries AD/CE but purports to be an epitome of the (lost) writings of the Greek astronomer Eratosthenes (276-194 BCE), Isis appears among other deities represented by this virginal figure:
Hesiod in the Theogony says this figure is Dike, the daughter of Zeus [Dios] and Themis… Some say it is Demeter because of the sheaf of grain she holds, others say it is Isis, others Atagartis, others Tyche…and for that reason they represent her as headless.
This Greek word parthenos used to describe these various goddesses, including Isis, is the identical term by which Jesus’s mother, Mary, is called decades to centuries later (Mt 1:23; Lk 1:27). Also like Isis, Mary too is called virgo, in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate Bible. In antiquity, therefore, both in Egyptian hieroglyphs and in Greek texts, Isis is styled the “Great Virgin.”
“The Greek word parthenos used to describe Isis as a ‘virgin’ is the identical term by which Jesus’s mother, Mary, is called decades to centuries later.”
The virgin-mother motif predates Christianity by thousands of years and revolves around the Goddess parthenogenetically reproducing the universe. This motif of parthenogenesis was applied to Isis’s very ancient alter ego, Neith, possibly 7,000 or more years ago. (For more information on the Egyptian virgin-mother goddess, see the chapter “The Virgin Isis-Mery” in Christ in Egypt.)
Explaining the astrotheological theme regarding Isis and her baby, Count Volney remarks:
It is the sun which, under the name of Horus, was born, like your [Christian] God, at the winter solstice, in the arms of the celestial virgin, and who passed a childhood of obscurity, indigence, and want, answering to the season of cold and frost.
Regarding the astrotheological nature of the gospel story, including the virgin birth, the famous Christian theologian and saint Albertus Magnus, or Albert the Great, (1193?-1280) purportedly stated:
“We know that the sign of the celestial Virgin did come to the horizon at the moment where we have fixed the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. All the mysteries of the incarnation of our Saviour Christ; and all the circumstances of his marvellous life, from his conception to his ascension, are to be traced out in the constellations, and are figured in the stars.”
“The sign of the celestial Virgin did come to the horizon at the moment where we have fixed the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As Albert the Great acknowledged, the virgin-birth motif is astrotheological, referring to the hour of midnight, December 25th, when the constellation of Virgo rises on the horizon. The Assumption of the Virgin, celebrated in Catholicism on August 15th, represents the summer sun’s brightness blotting out Virgo. Mary’s Nativity, celebrated on September 8th, occurs when the constellation is visible again. Such is what these “Christian” motifs and holidays represent, as has obviously been known by the more erudite of the Catholic clergy. Hence, the virgin who will conceive and bring forth is Virgo, and her son is the sun.
“The mythical motif of the sun god born at the winter solstice of a virgin precedes the common era by many centuries.”
The mythical motif of the sun god born at the winter solstice of a virgin precedes the common era by many centuries. As demonstrated here, its presence in the myths of Sokar, a form of both Osiris and Horus, dates back over 3,000 years. The same motif was celebrated as applied to Aion, Horus and other virgin-born solar deities around the globe for millennia.
ISIS IS A VIRGIN MOTHER
HORUS IS A SUN GOD
The Three Kings and Star in the East
The Christmas Hoax: Jesus is NOT the Reason for the Season
Rebuttal to Chris Forbes
Virgin Mother Goddesses of Antiquity
The Virgin Dawn Goddess
Egyptian hieroglyphs showing Isis as the ‘Great Virgin’
Dionysus: Born of a Virgin on December 25th
Attis: Born of a Virgin on December 25th
Mithra: Born of a Virgin on December 25th