Bob Dylan: Let Us Compare Mythologies

By Larry Fyffe

As noted in a number of previous articles, singer/songwriter Bob Dylan draws on Egyptian mythology to serve as symbols in his lyrics. For example, Isis and her brother Osiris, produce a son Horus, depicted as a god with a falcon for a head with its right eye representing the power of the sun; and the smaller left eye representing the moon – “She can take the dark out of the night-time/And paint the daytime black.” (She Belongs To Me). Osiris is mutilated by his jealous brother Seth, but Isis finds Osiris’ genitals and gives birth to Horus.

Mystics contend that there is third eye that enables humans, if they open it, to observe the life force that powers the Universe. The eye is in the brain, invisible, indetectable by the best of scientists, and beyond the manufacturing capabilities of any businessman.

A futility expressed in the irony of the following song lyrics:

He looks so truthful, is this how he feels
Trying to peel the moon and expose it
With his business-like anger and bloodhounds that kneel
If he needs a third eye, he just grows it

In some cultures, the third eye is symbolized by a red dot in the middle of the brow:

She wears a red Egyptian ring that sparkles before she speaks
She wears a red Egyptian ring that sparkles before she speaks
She’s a hypnotist collector, you are a walking antique

In these modern materialistic times, there is no spiritual link, no mystical connection, nor any mythological connection, with the life-force driving the Universe; indeed, the possibility of finding a conduit to it is getting farther and farther away. So writes a Modernistic poet with a Romatic bent:

Turning turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold
(William Butler Yeats: The Second Coming)

Saith the above poet, coming instead is the merciless Sphinx from Egyptian lore: “A shape with a lion body and head of a man”.

That’s enough to scare anybody, and Bob Dylan puts on his Horus mask and rides off in search of some balls; he wants to please Isis:

I came to a high place of darkness and light
The dividing line ran through the centre of town
I hitched up my pony to the post on the right

Horus returns to his home town – looking rather different as far as Isis is concerned.  He re-marries his young mother, and the Sphinx demands that Horus answer a riddle or ‘there’s going to be trouble in this here town; it ain’t big enough for both of us’. To wit: ‘There are two sisters; one gives birth to the other who in turn gives birth to the first – Who are they?’

Isis is more than happy to provide her husband with the right answer – ‘Day and Night’. The Sphinx crumbles:

Isis, Isis, you mystical child
What drives me to you is what drives me insane
I can remember the day that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drizzin’ rain

She nicknames her son “Horse” – You see, while away Horus makes off with Uncle Seth’s testicles.

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  1. See also lyrics to With The Memphis (Egypt) Blues Again, re, Ruthie, Isis’ sister.

  2. I’ll get over it, and start playing his records again …. sooner than later, I hope.

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