The Golden Ass

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Chapter 2

How the parents and friends of Apuleius heard news that he was alive and in health.

In the mean season newes was carried into my countrey (as swift as the flight of birds, or as the blast of windes) of the grace and benefit which I received of the goddesse, 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 againe, was as joyfull 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 necessarie for my body: for after I had made relation unto them of all my pristine miserie, and present joyes, I went before the face of the goddesse and hired me a house within the cloister of the temple to the end I might continually be ready to the service of the goddesse, and ordinarily frequent the company of the priests, whereby I would wholy become devout to the goddesse, and an inseparable worshipper of her divine name: It fortuned that the goddesse appeared to me oftetimes in the night perswading and commanding me to take the order of her religion, but I, though I was indued with a desirous good will, yet the feare of the same withheld me considering her obeysance was hard and difficile, the chastitie of the Priests intolerable, and the life fraile and subject to manie inconveniences. Being thus in doubt, I refrained my selfe 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 countrey of Thessaly, and that a servant of mine named Candidus was arived likewise: when I was awake, I mused in my selfe what this vision should pretend, considering I had never any servant called by that name: but what soever it did signifie, this I verely thought, that it was a foreshew of gaine and prosperous chance: while I was thus astonied I went to the temple, and taried there till the opening of the gates, then I went in and began to pray before the face of the goddesse, the Priest prepared and set the divine things of every Altar, and pulled out the fountaine and holy vessell with solempne supplication. Then they began to sing the mattens of the morning, testifying thereby the houre of the prime. By and by behold arived my servant which I had left in the country, when Fotis by errour made me an Asse, bringing with him my horse, recovered by her through certaine signes and tokens which I had upon my backe. Then I perceived the interpretation of my dreame, by reason that beside the promise of gaine, 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 goddesse in hope of greater benefits, considering I had received a signe 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 gravitie, 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 indeavour any unprofitable thing, saying, that the day when any one should be admitted into their order is appointed by the goddesse, the Priest which should minister the sacrifice is chosen by her providence, and the necessary charges of the ceremonies is alotted by her commandement, all which things he willed me to attend with marvailous patience, and that I should beware either of too much hastinesse, or too great slacknesse, 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 commandernent of the goddesse, whereby he should commit a deadly offence, considering that it was in her power to damne 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 goddesse, it was in her power by divine providence to reduce him to the path of health, as by a certaine kind of regeneration: Finally he said that I must attend the celestiall precept, although it was evident and plaine, that the goddesse had already vouchsafed to call and appoint me to her ministery, and to will me refraine from prophane and unlawfull meates, as those Priests which were already received, to the end I might come more apt and cleane to the knowledge of the secrets of religion. Then was I obedient unto these words, and attentive with meek quietnesse, and probable taciturnity, I daily served at the temple: in the end the wholesome gentlenesse of the goddesse did nothing deceive me, for in the night she appeared to me in a vision, shewing 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 principallest Priest Mythra to be minister with me in my sacrifices.

When I heard these divine commandements, I greatly rejoyced: and arose before day to speake with the great Priest, whom I fortuned to espie comming out of his chamber: Then I saluted him, and thought with my selfe to aske and demand his counsell with a bold courage, but as soone 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 goddesse doth so greatly accept with mercy, why dost thou delay? Behold the day which thou desiredst 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 tooke me by the hand, and lead me to the gate of the great temple, where at the first entrie he made a solempne 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 tailes, turning in fashion of a wheele, which were strange and impossible to be read of the prophane 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 certaine of my companions to buy liberally, whatsoever was needfull and convenient, then he brought me to the next bains accompanied with all the religious sort, and demanding pardon of the goddesse, washed me and purified my body, according to custome. After this, when noone approached, he brought me backe againe to the temple, presented me before the face of the goddesse, giving a charge of certaine secret things unlawfull to be uttered, and commanding me, and generally all the rest, to fast by the space of ten continuall daies, without eating of any beast, or drinking any wine, which thing I observed with a marvellous continencie. 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 prophane people commanded to depart, and when they had put on my back a linnen 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, verely I would tell you if it were lawfull for me to tell, you should know if it were convenient for you to heare, but both thy eares, and my tongue shall incur the like paine of rash curiositie: Howbeit, I will content thy mind for this present time, which peradventure is somewhat religious and given to some devotion, listen therefore and beleeve it to be true: Thou shalt understand that I approached neere unto Hell, even to the gates of Proserpina, and after that, I was ravished throughout all the Element, I returned to my proper place: About midnight I saw the Sun shine, I saw likewise the gods celestiall and gods infernall, before whom I presented my selfe, and worshipped them: Behold now have I told thee, which although thou hast heard, yet it is necessarie thou conceale it; this have I declared without offence, for the understanding of the prophane.

When morning came, and that the solemnities were finished, I came forth sanctified with xii. Stoles and in a religious habit, whereof I am not forbidden to speake, considering that many persons saw me at that time: there I was commanded to stand upon a seate of wood, which stood in the middle of the temple, before the figure and remembrance of the goddesse; my vestiment was of fine linnen, covered and embroidered with flowers. I had a pretious Cope upon my shoulders hanging downe to the ground, whereon were beasts wrought of divers colours as Indian dragons, and Hiperborian Griphons, whom in forme of birds, the other world doth ingender; the Priests commonly call such a habit, a celestiall Stole: in my right hand I carried a light torch, and a garland of flowers upon my head, with Palme 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 nativitie, and the new procession with sumptuous bankets and delicate meates: 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 marvailous great pleasure and consolation in beholding ordinarily the Image of the goddesse, who at length admonished me to depart homeward, not without rendring of thanks, which although it were not sufficient, yet they were according to my power. Howbeit I could unneth be perswaded to depart, before I had fallen prostrate before the face of the goddesse, and wiped her steps with my face, whereby I began so greatly to weepe 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 perpetuall comfort of humane kind, who by thy bounty and grace nourishest 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 puttest away all stormes and dangers from mans life by thy right hand, whereby likewise thou restrainest the fatall dispositions, appeasest the great tempests of fortune and keepest backe the course of the stars: the gods supernall doe honour thee: the gods infernall have thee in reverence: thou environest all the world, thou givest light to the Sunne, thou governest the world, thou treadest downe the power of hell: By thy meane the times returne, the Planets rejoyce, the Elements serve: at thy commandment the winds do blow, the clouds increase, the seeds prosper, and the fruits prevaile, the birds of the aire, 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 patrimonie is unable to satisfie thy sacrifice, my voice hath no power to utter that which I thinke, no if I had a thousand mouths and so many tongues: Howbeit as a good religious person, and according to my estate, I will alwaies keepe thee in remembrance and close thee within my breast. When I had ended mine orison, I went to embrace the great Priest Mythra my spirituall father, and to demand his pardon, considering I was unable to recompence 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 goddesse. I made up my packet, and tooke shipping toward the Citie of Rome, where with a prosperous winde I arrived about the xii. day of December. And the greatest desire that I had there, was daily to make my praiers to the soveraigne goddesse Isis, who by reason of the place where her temple was builded, 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 unknowne to her religion there.

When the yeare was ended, and the goddesse warned me againe to receive this new order and consecration, I marvailed greatly what it should signifie, and what should happen, considering that I was a sacred. person already, but it fortuned that while I partly reasoned with my selfe, and partly examining the thing with the Priests and Bishops, there came a new and marvailous thought in my mind, that is to say, I was onely religious to the goddesse Isis, but not sacred to the religion of great Osiris the soveraigne father of all the goddesses, between whom, although there was a religious unitie 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 linnen robes, holding in his hands speares wrapped in Ivie, and other things not convenient to declare, which then he left in my chamber, and sitting in my seate, recited to me such things as were necessary for the sumptuous banket of mine entrie. And to the end I might know him againe, he shewed me how the ankle of his left foote was somewhat maimed, which caused him a little to halt.

After that I manifestly knew the will of the God Osiris, when mattins was ended, I went from one to another, to find him out which had the halting marke on his foote, 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 onely the token of his foote, but the stature and habite 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 poore man of Madura, to whom he should minister his sacraments, to the end hee should receive a reward by divine providence, and the other glory, for his vertuous studies. When I saw my selfe this deputed unto religion, my desire was stopped by reason of povertie, for I had spent a great part of my goods in travell and peregrination, but most of all in the Citie 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 vestiments, and entring into so great ceremonies, fearest to fall into povertie? Prepare thy selfe, and abstaine from all animall meats, as beasts and fish. In the meane season I frequented the sacrifices of Serapis, which were done in the night, which thing gave me great comfort to my peregrination, and ministred unto me more plentifull 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 astonied, because I could not tell what this new vision signified, or what the intent of the celestiall god was, doubting least the former Priests had given me ill counsell, 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 shouldest be afraid with so often order of religion, as though there were somewhat omitted, but that thou shouldest rather rejoyce, since as it hath pleased the gods to call thee three times, when as there was never yet any person that atchieved to the order but once: wherefore thou maist thinke thy selfe happy for so great benefits. And know thou that the religion which thou must now receive, is right necessary, if thou meane to persever in the worshipping of the goddesse, and to make solempnity on the festivall day with the blessed habite, which thing shalt be a glory and renowne to thee.

After this sort, the divine majesty perswaded me in my sleepe, whereupon by and by I went towards the Priest, and declared all that which I had seene, then I fasted ten dayes according to the custome, and of mine owne proper will I abstained longer then I was commanded: and verely I did nothing repent of the paine 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 dayes, the great god Osiris appeared to me in the night, not disguised in any other forme, but in his owne essence, commanding me that I should be an Advocate in the court, and not feare the slander and envie of ill persons, which beare me stomacke and grudge by reason of my doctrine, which I had gotten by much labour: 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 Senatours: and after he appointed me a place within the ancient pallace, which was erected in the time of Silla, where I executed my office in great joy with a shaven Crowne.

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