Tuesday, December 23, 2008
There is no single theory in Egyptology with unanimous support that logically explains the meaning of these funerary vestures. A new study reveals they form an image of the Christian Saviour — a bearded shepherd with long hair.
The headdress, beard, and shepherd’s staff have a symbolic meaning. They were used to transform the outward appearance of the deceased into an image of the god Osiris, the single most important Egyptian deity, and the first in recorded history to have risen from the dead.
Religion of Resurrection
"The central figure of the ancient Egyptian Religion was Osiris," wrote the late Egyptologist Sir E. A. Wallis Budge, "and the chief fundamentals of his cult were the belief in his divinity, death, resurrection, and absolute control of the destinies of the bodies and souls of men. The central point of each Osirian’s Religion was his hope of resurrection in a transformed body and of immortality, which could only be realized by him through the death and resurrection of Osiris." 1
Early in Egyptian history it was a religious custom to bury the dead kings in the image of Osiris. Later the upper classes and eventually the common masses were given an Osirian burial. The custom reflects the Egyptians quest to follow in his resurrection. Henri Frankfort, a former professor of Preclassical Antiquity at the University of London, underscored this idea: "It may be well to emphasize that the identification of the dead with Osiris was a means to an end, that is, to reach resurrection in the Hereafter." 2
The name "Osiris" (Ausar) in hieroglyphics contains the silhouette of a bearded man with long hair. This is the same image engraved on the anthropomorphic coffins. The nemes headdress, beginning on the forehead of the deceased and resting upon the shoulders, is symbolic of long hair. (The headdress was tied into a ponytail in the back of the head as is often done with long hair.) The plaited beard on the chin represents a long beard.
This discovery confronts us with a fascinating mystery: For thousands of years before the rise of Christianity the Egyptians were in a quest to follow in the resurrection of a bearded man with long hair and acquire life after death!
Osirianised coffins also display a shepherd’s staff in the left hand, a distinctly Christian symbol. (Jesus described himself as the "Good Shepherd" of the human flock. Portraits of Christ show him holding the shepherd’s staff.) The shepherd’s staff was depicted in the hands of Osiris in Egyptian artwork. In literature his epithets sa and Asar-sa mean "shepherd" and "Osiris the shepherd." The term shepherd seems an appropriate title for a beloved spiritual leader whose religion of resurrection promised life after death for the wayward soul.
Cross of Life
Incredibly, "life" after death was expressed by the ankh cross, another symbol with a counterpart in Christianity. The ankh was the most revered and prolific emblem in Egypt. It was inscribed on tombs and temples and it was depicted in the hands of gods, kings, priests, viziers, ordinary citizens, and their children. No one knows its origins. Its meaning of "life" after death is strikingly similar to the meaning of Christ’s crucifix, also symbolic of "life" after death. (Jesus’ Doctrine of Eternal Life is a recurring theme in the New Testament. In John 11:25 Jesus says: "I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.")
It should be noted that symbolists see in the ankh the outline of a crucified man: the circle represents his head, the horizontal line his two arms, and the vertical line his legs nailed to the cross as one.
Day of Judgment
After his resurrection Osiris became judge of the souls of the dead. In this position he held the power to grant life in heaven to those who behaved righteously on earth. Wallis Budge explained: "the belief that Osiris was the impartial judge of men’s deeds and words, who rewarded the righteous, and punished the wicked, and ruled over a heaven which contained only sinless beings, and that he possessed the power to do these things because he had lived on earth, and suffered death, and risen from the dead, is as old as dynastic civilization in Egypt..." 3
The Day of Judgment is a central tenet of the Christian religion. The souls of the deceased shall stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Those who have followed his teachings during their lives shall be deemed righteous and be admitted to heaven. II Corinthians 5:10 says: "For we must all appear before the judgment seat [emphasis added] of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
Depictions of Christ and Osiris as judge are remarkably similar. Michelangelo’s The Last Judgment has many common features to the Day of Judgment etched on Egyptian papyri and carved on tomb walls. In the Egyptian ceremony the heart of the deceased, symbolic of his virtue, moral character, and earthly deeds, was laid on a set of scales and weighed against a single feather representing maat, the divine law. If the scales balanced, the deceased was allowed to pass into heaven.
As judge, Osiris was always portrayed in the seated position, a posture that parallels the New Testament’s descriptions of the judgment seat of Christ.
What are we to make of these striking similarities? Did Christian scholars simply "borrow" images and symbols of Osiris from the Egyptian religion? Or does this evidence reveal a profound and hitherto undiscovered phenomenon that has been affecting the course of human civilization? By uncovering the similarities common to the Egyptian and Christian religions are we, in fact, re-discovering the sacred blueprints of an ancient Messianic tradition that has been accelerating man’s cultural and spiritual development since the beginning of history?
Myth vs. Fact
Because the story of Osiris was so well known in Egypt it was never set down in writing. As a result modern researchers cannot quite gauge the events surrounding his life, death, and resurrection. The first written accounts of Osiris come down to us from sources outside Egypt by way of ancient historians such as Diodorus Siculus (1st C. BC), Herodotus (5th C. BC), and Plutarch (1st C. AD). These classical writers describe Osiris as a semi-divine king who abolished cannibalism, taught men and women to live according to law of maat, improved their morality, and, filled with love for mankind, set out on a quest to travel the world and bring the benefits of civilization to other cultures. Their commentary continues with mythological descriptions of the murder of Osiris by a jealous brother named Seth; his rebirth, accomplished by the magic of his sister/wife, Isis; and his second death, caused again by Seth, who dismembered his body and scattered the pieces up and down the Nile. After the utter destruction of Osiris his son, Horus, defeats Seth in an epochal battle thereby vindicating his murdered father.
The myth of Osiris seems to take place half in our world and half in an enchanted world of magic and make-believe. This element of fiction is responsible, in part, for the misconception that Osiris was a fictional being. The facts left among the ruins of ancient Egypt tell an entirely different story. The Osirian religion sparked a renaissance among the ancient Nile-dwellers the effects of which impacted every facet of their primitive society. It instilled in them a high moral code, a sense of good and evil, and an inclination toward brotherly love and admiration unprecedented in human history and unparalleled by any other ancient nation.
It also fostered a highly advanced philosophy. Osiris worshippers realized the human body was neither perfect nor permanent. But they were also convinced death was not the end of their being. There was an eternal, spiritual element within them that would rise – resurrect – from the body and exist in a higher spiritual realm, provided their behavior was in accordance with a high moral code (maat). Consequently, they never became too attached to the things of this world. This is precisely the same philosophy expressed in the religion of Christianity sparked by the life, death, and resurrection of the Christian Saviour.
Phoenix in the East
The Egyptians likened the spirit of Osiris to a heavenly bird, much like Christianity portrays the soul of Jesus as a white and shining dove. The Egyptians called the bird Benu, the Greeks called it the phoenix. According to legend this magnificent creature miraculously appears in the eastern sky during fixed points in history to announce the start of a new world age. When it appears the bird mysteriously sets itself ablaze and is suddenly consumed by fire and ashes. However, it arises triumphantly from death renewed and rejuvenated.
Scholars unanimously believe the phoenix was a symbol of Osiris. German Philologist Adolf Erman explained "the soul of Osiris…dwells in the bird Benu, the phoenix…." 4 A passage from the Coffin Texts supports this observation: "I am that great Phoenix which is in On. Who is he? He is Osiris. The supervisor of what exists. Who is he? He is Osiris." 5
The attributes of Osiris as phoenix are the same attributes associated with the Christian Messiah. Both the phoenix and the Messiah appear in the eastern sky (the star of Bethlehem arose in the east heralding the newborn King). Both rise from the dead. Both embody the theme of life after death through resurrection. Both herald the star of new ages. (Christ’s appearance initiated the current age: BC/AD.) Finally, and perhaps most importantly, both are associated with the promise of a destined re-appearance (Christians are currently expecting Christ’s re-appearance, i.e., the Doctrine of the Second Coming).
What is the significance behind the parallels common to the phoenix and the Messiah? Does the phoenix myth enshrine wisdom of the appearances of a recurring Saviour in human history, a Saviour whose life, death, and resurrection was purposely designed to accelerate the development of human culture? Is there a powerful and well-guarded tradition expressed in the myth of Egypt’s enigmatic phoenix? A tradition that is now on the verge of being re-discovered?
The "FIRST TIME" of Osiris
The Egyptians associated the first appearance of the phoenix with a golden age in their history known as Zep Tepi, the "First Time." They were convinced the foundations of their civilization were established during this remote and glorious epoch. R. T. Rundle Clark, former professor of Egyptology at Manchester University, commented on the ancients conception of the First Time: "Anything whose existence or authority had to be justified or explained must be referred to the 'First Time.’ This was true for natural phenomena, rituals, royal insignia, the plans of temples, magical or medical formulae, the hieroglyphic system of writing, the calendar – the whole paraphernalia of the civilization…All that was good or efficacious was established on the principles laid down in the "First Time" – which was, therefore, a golden age of absolute perfection..." 6
The First Time seems to have been the period during which Osiris reigned as foremost king of Egypt. It was during this era that he established law (maat) and initiated worship of Ra, Egypt’s monotheistic God. Rundle Clark explained: "The reign of Osiris was a golden age, the model for subsequent generations." 7 Maat and monotheism, the "model for subsequent generations" set forth by Osiris, was the driving force behind Egyptian culture for thousands of years.
What exactly does the phrase "the First Time" mean? Is it a reference to the first appearance – the first coming – of the Christian Saviour on earth? Was there a guiding force behind the rise of Egyptian culture? The same guiding force that has inaugurated the empire of Christendom? Was the First Time an era during which an ancient Messianic tradition was first established? A tradition aimed at revealing cultural wisdom, law, and spiritual truth to mankind during different historical epochs?
Richard R. Cassaro graduated from Pace University in New York with a BA in journalism and a minor in philosophy. His groundbreaking book The Deeper Truth: Uncovering the Missing History of Egypt (www.deepertruth.com), evokes a powerful image of Osiris as the Shepherd, Messiah, and eternal King of ancient Egypt.
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Side One of the Nermer Plate: The Northern Winter Skies Side One of the Nermer Plate clearly depicts the Northern Winter Skies. Many readers will immediately recognise the Northern Winter sky chart, and perhaps even remember some of its associated symbolism, from Part 1, Part 2 and Part 5. A few readers may even test their skills in deciphering Side One of the Plate, by applying what they have learned from Parts 1 to 5, before reading any further. However, for those readers who have come directly to this segment without any prior knowledge, I will decipher the Nermer Plate to include a lot of detail and explanation.
The Northern Winter Skies. From top left to right: Gemini and Taurus.From middle left to right: Canis Minor, Monoceros and Orion.From bottom left to right: Canis Major, Orion's Chair and Eridanus.
The esoteric meaning of the scenes on the Nermer Plate is best explained by working from the top to the bottom of each side. However in the case of the chiefs, which are the top panels where the bulls' heads are, because they summarize the sacred message on the Plate, I decided to decipher them together. As some of the concepts outlined may prove complex for the novice to grasp, to facilitate an easier understanding of the scenes and symbolism on the Plate, as indicated earlier I have included lots of pictures and explanations. The Top Panels: The Chiefs The chiefs summarize the sacred meaning symbolized on the Nermer Plate. They present an overview of the astronomical event which occurred on September 21st in 4468BCE, when the Autumn (Fall) Equinox of the Sun was in conjunction with the Milky Way. This commemoration of the Dawn of the Age of Taurus is vividly displayed in the presence of the four bulls' heads, two on each side of the Plate. Each bull's head symbolizes the Constellation of Taurus the Bull. (See Part 5)
The chiefs on each side of the Nermer PlateThey present an overview of the astronomical event which occurred on September 21st in 4468BCE … the Dawn of the Age of Taurus
In the chief on Side One of the Plate, between the two bulls' heads, there is a hieroglyph situated to the side of and beneath "Nermer"; the catfish (ner) and the chisel (mer). As well as representing a temple it is also an Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph representing Dawn, the rising of the sun above the mountains, or horizon. In this case it represents the Dawn of the Age of Taurus. This explanation is taken a step further under "The King of the Stars"
Side One: The hieroglyph beneath the catfish and the chisel not only represents a temple, it is also an Ancient Egyptianhieroglyph representing Dawn, the rising of the sun above the mountains, or horizon. In this case it represents the Dawn of the Age of Taurus.
I have translated the full pictogram of the catfish, the chisel and the temple/dawn as "The Nermer Festival". Nermer/Osiris/Orion, the Creation Principle and Lord of Precession, is orchestrating and overseeing the beginning of a New Age in the Zodiac. On the obverse side of the plate the Sun is risen. The Age of Taurus has begun.
Side Two: The hieroglyph beneath, and to the side of, the catfish and the chisel not only represents a temple, it is also an Ancient Egyptian hieroglyph representing the Risen Sun above the mountains, or horizon. In this case it means that the Age of Taurus has begun.
A further interpretation of the temple hieroglyph is two thrones facing each other. Each of these thrones is the emblem of Isis, both sister and wife to Osiris.
Ancient Egyptianhieroglyph : Two Thronesfacing each other.
Temple of Isis at Philae.The hieroglyph for Isis,the Throne, is clearly visible.
Isis.Sister and wifeto Osiris
The Giant The Giant represents the Constellation of Orion. In Ancient Egypt Orion was known as "The Soul of Osiris". It follows that The Giant, who is usually referred to as Narmer by Egyptologists after the catfish and the chisel emblems in the chiefs at the top of the Plate, is in fact Osiris, the Lord of Precession … as opposed to Osiris, the Lord of the Dead. The Giant appears to capture one of the Gemini Twins, perhaps in an attempt to halt the progression into the New Age of Taurus. More likely however he is giving the Twin his blessing in the closing minutes in the Age of Gemini. The scene is reminiscent of a person receiving a Knighthood for services rendered. The one figure represents the set of Gemini Twins since the Twin's body is facing forward towards the forthcoming Age of Taurus, while his face is looking back upon the Age of Gemini.
The Giant representsthe constellation of Orion
The constellation of Orion:the Soul of Osiris
Osiris:Lord of the Dead
The omission of Orion's head and legs in the constellation of Orion, illustrated above, is immediately noticeable. It would seem that Orion has had his legs and his head chopped off! A similar practice was observed by the Knights Templar five and a half thousand years later when they were buried. By adopting this practice the deceased Knights Templar became as one with Orion and, by implication, Osiris. The "skull and crossbones" … Orion's missing head and legs … were also adopted by the Knights Templar as their emblem, their symbol of recognition. As we shall soon discover, the severed head of Orion is in fact the Sun. Moreover it is the headless Orion which is the source of legends about severed heads. It is also noticeable that both the Giant and Orion are wearing a belt, an apron and tassels; though in the case of the Giant he is wearing only one tassel. Anyone who was to adopt a similar regalia would also adopt the Orion/Osiris image. Orion is depicted as using a bow to shoot at Taurus the Bull. This same outline of stars can be seen on the left of the Giant's upper body on the Nermer Plate. Firstly trace the line from the Giant's left hand to the back of the head of the Sphynx. Next continue up to the right elbow of the bird, to its head. The beak is formed by the last two stars at the top of the Bow of Orion. Similarly a crude bow is formed by the outline of the twig and the Sphinx.
Orion using a bowto shoot atTaurus the Bull
The outline of Orion'sbow can be seen held inthe Giant's left hand.
Orion with hisbow in hisleft hand.
The Giant's crown, the White Crown of Ancient Egypt, is yet another star constellation. It is the Constellation of Taurus the Bull which is positioned immediately above the Bow of Orion! In the star chart below Orion is caught in the action of placing the White Crown on his head. Orion's counterpart, Osiris, is always pictured wearing the White Crown.
The Giant wearingthe White Crownof Ancient Egypt
Osiris is alwayspictured wearingthe White Crown
Orion placing the WhiteCrown of Ancient Egypton his head
Egyptologists associate the White Crown, which the Giant is wearing in the closing seconds of the Age of Gemini, with Upper Egypt. However the Sphinx with the papyrus growing out of its back, indicates the White Crown as being associated with Lower Egypt.
The White Crown
The Red Crown
The Giant in the opening seconds of the Age of Taurus (on Side Two of the Plate) is wearing the Red Crown, which is usually associated with Lower Egypt. Clearly there was no Upper and Lower Egypt at the time of the Nermer Plate. This division was imposed later, possibly by well meaning Egyptologists, when the esoteric meaning of the Red and White Crowns was lost. The White Crown, as worn by Osiris, the Lord of Precession, is a symbol of Precession. (See Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7 for other symbols of Precession.) It is significant that not only is the Giant wearing the Osiris Beard he is also carrying a symbolic sword in the form of a feathery branch of the tamarisk tree, at his right side. It will be recalled that in the Osiris Legend, Osiris was encased in the trunk of a tamarisk tree. This further identifies the Giant as Osiris, the Lord of Precession.
(Continued in Part 10)
MORE ON SCARABS
SCARAB (DUNG) BEETLE
It is generally accepted that the sacred scarab beetle of egyptian mythology originated from the species Scarabaeus sacer, although the ancient worship of this beetle was eventually extended to all members of the scarab or dung beetle family. The scarab was personified by Khepri, a sun-god associated with resurrection and new life. The ancient egyptians believed that the scarab beetle came into being of itself from a ball of dung (the idea of self-creation). It was worshipped under the name of Khepri, which means 'he who has come into being' or 'he who came forth from the earth'. The god Khepri was associated with the creator-god Atum and was regarded as a form of the sun-god Ra. Just as the beetle pushed its ball of dung over the ground, so Khepri in the form of a scarab beetle, it was thought, rolled the solar disc across the sky each day.
Typical scarab beetle (Geotrupes), similar to the sacred scarab (Scarabaeus)
The scarab was a common type of amulet, seal or ring-bezel found in Egypt from the 6th Dynasty (c.2345 BC) until the Ptolemaic period (c.30 BC). The earliest were purely amuletic and uninscribed; it was only during the Middle Kingdom (2055-1650 BC) that they were used as seals. The flat underside of the scarab, carved in stone or moulded in faience (a type of glazed pottery) or glass, was usually decorated with designs or inscriptions, sometimes incorporating a royal name.
Two examples of scarab amulets or seals inscribed on the underside with hieroglyphs, including a scarab glyph (bottom left) and a flying-scarab glyph (bottom right). The scarab on the left (11 mm long) is from the Late Period (c.500 BC), whereas that on the right (25 mm long) is much older and from the reign of Rameses II (1279-1213 BC). Both these amulets are pierced longways to hang on a necklace, as typical of many scarab amulets.
There were also a number of funerial types, such as the 'winged scarab' (nearly always made of blue faience and often incorporated into the bead net used to cover mummies), and the 'heart scarab' (sometimes inscribed with Chapter 13b of The Book of the Dead and usually placed on the chest of a mummified body under the cloth wrappings). These were included in burials from the 13th Dynasty (1795-1650 BC) onwards.
Two examples of funerial scarabs: 'winged scarab' (left) made of blue faience with pierced holes for attachment to the outer covering of a mummified body (age unknown, span 150 mm); 'heart scarab' (right) carved in stone, this example uninscribed and unpierced, and would be placed on the chest of a mummified body under its coverings (c.900 BC, 45 mm long).
The term 'scaraboid' is often used to describe a seal or amulet which has the same ovoid shape as a scarab, but may have its back carved in a form other than that of a scarab beetle.
The scarab and flying-scarab hieroglyphs were used in egyptian texts to represent the name of the creator-god, Khepri, and also to represent the word kheprer - meaning 'flying beetle' or 'sacred scarab' - and the word kheper - meaning 'become' or 'manifestation of '.
The throne names (prenomens) of many pharaohs of the 18th Dynasty included the scarab (kheper) glyph as an element, such as those of Tuthmosis III (1483-1429 BC), Amenhotep II (1431-1405 BC), Tuthmosis IV (1405-1395 BC) and Tutankhamun (1338-1328 BC), as illustrated below.
The prenomen cartouches of (left to right): Tuthmosis III (Men-kheper-Re), Amenhotep II (Aa-kheperu-Re), Tuthmosis IV (Men-kheperu-Re) and Tutankhamun (Neb-kheperu-Re), all of which include a scarab (kheper) glyph. These translate as: 'Established' (Men), 'Great' (Aa) or 'Lordly' (Neb) - 'manifestation of ' (kheper) or theplural form (indicated by three short lines) 'manifestations of ' (kheperu) - 'the sun god' (Re).
(no hieroglyph) EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
BUPRESTID (JEWEL) BEETLE
Scarabs were not the only beetles to capture the imagination of the ancient egyptians. The buprestid or jewel beetle is another type frequently found in tombs and modelled as amulets for hanging on necklaces. The name 'jewel beetle' comes from the vivid metallic colouring of many species, displayed in subtle shades of bright irridescent greens, golds and purple-reds. Keimer (1938) suggested that the buprestid most likely depicted on artifacts by the ancient egyptians was a species called Steraspis squamosa, a large beetle about 35 mm long as an adult, with a wood-boring larval stage that feeds on the tamarisk tree.
Typical buprestid beetle
Although the symbolism of bupestid amulets and other artifacts remains obscure, Kritsky (1991) suggested a possible religious significance because the wood-boring habit of the beetles could be linked to the Osiris myth. According to this myth, Osiris (lord of the underworld and afterlife) was tricked by his brother Seth and became trapped inside a tamarisk tree, eventually to be released and brought back to life when the tree was split open by Isis. In much the same way, ancient egyptian carpenters may well have found buprestid beetles when they split logs and prepared boards for coffins, and so linked the emergence of these beetles from split logs to the myth. Thus, the buprestid amulets may have symbolised the rebirth of Osiris.
Bupestrid amulets were made of several substances, including gold, calcite and faience (glazed pottery). A spectacular necklace trimmed with many golden buprestid beetle amulets, dating from the 6th Dynasty (2345-2181 BC), is on display at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston USA. An unusual use of the buprestid beetle motif can be seen on the bed-canopy of Queen Hetepheres in the Egyptian Museum Cairo, where golden buprestids decorate the pin-heads holding together the corner posts of the bed-canopy. Queen Hetepheres was the wife of the 4th Dynasty pharaoh Sneferu (2613-2589 BC).
(no hieroglyph) EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
ELATERID (CLICK) BEETLE
A third type of beetle apparently of mythological significance to the ancient egyptians was the elaterid beetle, commonly called the click beetle. Of the elaterid beetles known from Egypt, Keimer (1938) considered Agrypnus notodonta as the most likely species represented in ancient carvings.
Typical elaterid beetle (Agrypnus)
Ancient artifacts that appear to depict elaterid beetles include two carved reliefs from the 1st Dynasty (3100-2890 BC) and a necklace of golden click beetle amulets dating from the 4th Dynasty (2613-2494 BC). Of the three artifacts, Kritsky (1991) considered the carved reliefs best indicate the symbolic importance of the click beetle. The first is a triangular carving with two elaterids placed head to head and incorporated into the symbol of the goddess Neith. The second relief depicts part of an elaterid beetle holding the sacred sceptre of the gods, called the uas or waas sceptre. Thus, although their precise symbolism is unclear, elaterids possibly had some religious or protective significance.
beehieroglyph EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
According to one egyptian myth, honey bees (scientific name Apis mellifera) were the tears of the sun god Ra. Their religious significance extended to an association with the goddess Neith, whose temple in the delta town of Sais in Lower Egypt [map] was known as per-bit - meaning 'the house of the bee'. Honey was regarded as a symbol of resurrection and also thought to give potection against evil spirits. Small pottery flasks, which according to the hieratic inscriptions on the side originally contained honey, were found in the tomb of the boy-king, Tutankhamun.
Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
Throughout ancient egyptian history the bee has been strongly associated with royal titles. In Predynastic and early Dynastic times, before the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, the rulers of Lower Egypt used the title bit - meaning 'he of the bee', usually translated as 'King of Lower Egypt' or 'King of North', whereas the rulers of Upper Egypt were called nesw - meaning 'he of the sedge', translated as 'King of Upper Egypt' or 'King of the South'. In later times, after the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, the pharaoh rulers used the title nesw-bit - meaning 'he of the sedge and the bee', which is conventionally translated as 'King of Upper and Lower Egypt' or 'King of the South and North'.
Hieroglyph inscription nesw-bit ('he of the sedge and the bee'), which was part of royal titles from the 1st Dynasty onwards and translated as 'King of Upper and Lower Egypt'. It was used as a prefix to the throne name (prenomen) of the pharaoh king.
Bee glyph carved on a stone scarab amulet (c.1700 BC)
Bee-keeping is depicted in egyptian temple reliefs as early as the 5th Dynasty (2445-2441 BC). These show that apiculture was well established in Egypt by the middle of the Old Kingdom. Records from at least one tomb workers' village during the New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) indicate that the workmen there kept bees and this was doubtless true of other communities throughout egyptian history. Bee-keeping is also depicted in some 18th and 26th Dynasty tombs. Bees were certainly of great importance in providing honey, which was used both as the principal sweetener in the egyptian diet and as a base for medicinal ointments. The egyptians also collected beeswax for use as a mould-former in metal castings and also for use as a paint-varnish.
The bee hieroglyph was used to represent the word bit - meaning 'bee' or 'honey', or the royal title 'King of Lower Egypt' or 'King of the North'.
flyhieroglyph EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
It is generally thought that the fly in egyptian mythology gave protection against disease or misfortune. Stone amulets in the form of flies were being made in Egypt as early as 3500 BC or thereabouts. In the Old and Middle Kingdom periods (2686-1650 BC), the fly was also depicted on various ritual artifacts, including the so called 'magic wands' often carved from hippopotamus ivory and probably intended to protect the owner from harm.
Typical flies (blow-flies and flesh-flies) attracted to carrion and meat; similar flies must havebeen very familiar to the ancient egyptians, much as they are commonly seen today aroundthe food waste and household refuse of most human settlements
Although the precise symbolism of early fly amulets remains obscure, their significance during the later New Kingdom period (1550-1069 BC) is better documented. At this time the military decoration known as the 'order of the golden fly' (or 'fly of valour') was introduced and awarded for bravery in battle. The fly was perhaps used in this way because of it's apparent qualities of persistence in the face of opposition. One of the best known examples is a gold chain with three pendants in the form of 'flies of valour' from the tomb of Queen Ahhotep I (c.1550 BC) and now in the Egyptian Museum Cairo.
A fly amulet from the Late Period (c.250 BC).This example (29 mm long) is carved from pink agate andhas a suspension loop at the top to hang on a necklace.
The fly hieroglyph was used to represent the word aff - meaning 'a fly' - or in later times (c.1550 BC onwards) as a symbol of bravery.
(no hieroglyph) EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
The butterfly is thought to be an example of the ancient egyptian use of an insect motif purely for its own beauty rather than as a symbol of religious or mythological significance. Butterflies were often depicted in tomb paintings of river-bank scenes throughout the Old and New Kingdom periods (2686-1069 BC). Some of these reliefs and paintings show great attention to detail so that particular species of butterflies still represented in the present-day fauna of the region can be easily recognised. The species most often depicted on these ancient reliefs is a large and impressive butterfly called Danaus chrysippus, which is a close relative and very similar in appearance to the familiar monarch or milkweed butterfly (Danaus plexippus) of North America (occasionally also found in parts of northern Africa and Europe).
Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
The butterfly motif was also used in jewelry design, such as found on several 4th Dynasty bracelets recovered from the tomb of Queen Hetepheres and now in the Museum of Fine Arts Boston USA. In addition, several amuletic artifacts resembling butterflies have been found in excavations at the royal necropolis and pyramid complex at Lisht on the banks of the Nile about 50 km south of Cairo [map], although these are so stylised that their identification as butterflies is open to question.
locust orgrasshopperhieroglyph EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
The particular grasshopper species used as a motif by the ancient egyptians was probably the locust, either the desert locust (Schistocera gregaria) or the migratory locust (Schistocerca migratoria), both of which were probably common sights in the rich agricultural land bordering the Nile. Sudden plagues of these insects in ancient times no doubt caused much destruction of grain and other food crops, just as they do today.
Desert locust (Schistocerca) at the 'hopper' stage without fully formed wings
Most of the locust (or grasshopper) amulets and seals so far discovered are similar to those depicting scarab beetles, with a flat base usually inscribed and pierced through for threading on string or wire so that they could be worn. Possibly these amulets were thought to ward-off locust plagues. Locusts (or grasshoppers) were also depicted in tomb reliefs and paintings, as elements of wildlife along the Nile.
The locust or grasshopper hieroglyph quite simply refers to the insect itself, although in certain contexts it appears to mean 'great numbers of individuals', for example on a wall in the temple at Medinet Habu near modern-day Luxor [map] there is an inscription which reads: 'battalions will come like the locusts'. The locust (or grasshopper) appears in hieroglyphic texts, for example, as a determinative to the word snehem - meaning 'locust' or 'grasshopper' - as illustrated below (a determinative symbol in hieroglyphic text, the locust or grasshopper symbol in this case, is not transliterated and merely indicates the meaning or context of the word represented by the preceding hieroglyphs).
The hieroglyph inscription snehem(reading the symbols top to bottom and left to right, ignoring the determinative locust: s-n-eh-em)
scorpionhieroglyph EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
Although not an insect, this arachnid deserves mention because, like the serpent, it became the object of many cults and spells from the earliest times in egyptian history, doubtless due to the fear of its sting. Two types of scorpions are found in Egypt: the paler, more poisonous members of the family Buthridae and the darker, usually less harmful members of the family Scorpionidae.
Typical scorpion (Arachnida)
Statue of the goddess Serketwith a scorpion on her head*
*Guilded wooden figure of Serket with arms outstretched (c.1330 BC) - found with three similar statues of the goddesses Isis, Neith and Nephthys guarding the conopic chest in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
The scorpion ideogram, one of the earliest known hieroglyphic signs, was depicted on wooden and ivory labels found in the late-Predynastic and Early Dynastic royal cemetery at Abydos [map] and also among the cache of cult equipment in the Early Dynastic temple at Hierakonpolis [map]. The goddess Serket was the principal divine personification of the scorpion and was usually depicted with a scorpion perched on her head (see picture above). Her name (also rendered as Serqit, Serquit, Selket or Selkis) is an abbreviation of the phrase Serket-hetyt (or Serqit-hetu) meaning 'she who causes the throat to breathe'. She was one of the four protector goddesses of coffins and conopic jars, together with Isis, Neith and Nephthys - the four godesses were often represented on canopic chests. Isis was also said to have been protected from her enemies by seven scorpions. Another, less well-known deity, the god Shed (also described as 'the saviour'), was linked with the scorpion and thought to give protection against its sting.
One of the predynastic pharaoh kings of Upper Egypt (c.3150 BC) has been given the name Scorpion (also named Zekhen in some lists). He was identified from a ceremonial mace-head found at Hierakonpolis (modern-day Kom el-Ahmar, about 80 km south of Luxor) [map] which depicts a king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt with the glyph of a scorpion next to his face. He appears to have been a warrior-king involved in the early struggles to unite Upper and Lower Egypt.
From the Late Period (c.750 BC) onwards, images of scorpions were also depicted on so called cippi, which were types of amulets or stele used to ward off, and provide healing powers against, scorpion stings and snake bites.
The scorpion hieroglyph was symbolic of the scorpion itself, and of the goddess Serket and the pre-dynastic king Scorpion. It was also used in hieroglyphic texts, for example, as a determinative to the word serk - meaning 'scorpion' and also 'to breathe' or 'to sniff the wind' - as illustrated below (a determinative symbol in hieroglyphic text, the scorpion symbol in this case, is not transliterated and merely indicates the meaning or context of the word represented by the preceding hieroglyphs).
The hieroglyph inscription serk(reading the symbols top to bottom, ignoring the determinative scorpion: s-er-k)
centipedehieroglyph EGYPTIANCHRONOLOGY(quick reference)
Again not an insect, but belonging to the related Chilopoda, the centipede was revered by the ancient egyptians and is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts: 'The serpent is in the sky, the centipede of Horus is on earth'.
Typical centipede (Chilopoda)
The minor god Sepa, whose name means 'centipede', was worshipped in Heliopolis [map], and was evoked as a charm against noxious animals and enemies of the gods. Sepa was also equated with Osiris as a mortuary god.
Friday, December 19, 2008
"Four Sons of HORUS*
The Four Sons of Horus are sometimes described as the funerary deities, or genii (sing, genius). Their names are Imsety (imsti), Hapy (hpy, not to be confused with the Nile river god, Hapi), Duamutef and Kebehsenuef. All references we have to these deities are funerary in context, and it appears that no cults ever honored them.
Right: The Four Sons of Horus rising from a Lotus blossom (Blue Lilly)
While the family genealogy of these deities is not well established, they are clearly stated to be the sons of Horus in any number of texts. For example, while Isis was said to be their mother, in Spell 125 of the Book of the Dead, they are seen as having sprung from a lotus flower (Blue Lilly). In various text, Horus of Khem, Harsiese and Horus the Elder are all cited as being their father. The four sons were also associated with four protective goddess, usually being paired as Imsety and Isis, Hapy and Nephthys, Duamutef and Neith, and Kebehsenuef and Selket.
The Sons of Horus were associated with various points of the compass, as well, with Imsety linked to the South, Hapy with the North, Duamutef the East and Kebehsenuef the West. In addition, Hapy and Duamutef were associated with the northern Delta city of Buto, while Imsety and Kebehsenuef were linked to the southern, or Upper Egyptian city of Hierakonpolis.
Right: Duamutef with the head of a jackel
We find references to these deities from the Old Kingdom all the way through to Greco- Roman times. The earliest extensive religious text, known as the Pyramid Texts, mentions them a total of fourteen times. From these texts, we learn of their basic nature.
For example, Spell 2078 and 2079 describe them as,
"friends of the king, (who) attend on this King...., the children of Horus of Khem (letopolis); they tie the rope-ladder for this King. they make firm the wooden ladder for this King, they cause the King to ascend to Khepri when he comes into being in the eastern side of the sky".
From Spell 1333, we learn that they, "spread protection of life over your father the Osiris King, since he was restored by the gods", while Sepll 552 tells us that, "I will not be thirsty by reason of Shu, I will not be hungry by reason of Tefnut; Hapy, Duamutef, Kebehsenuef, and Imsety will expel this hunger which is in my belly and this thirst which is on my lips". However, in the New Kingdom Book of the Going Forth by Day (the Book of the Dead, Spell 137), tells us more about these gods:
"O sons of Horus, Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, Kebehsenuef: as you spread your protection over your father Osiris-Khentimentiu, so spread your protection over (the deceased), as you remove the impediment from Osiris-Khentimentiu, so he might live with the gods and drive Seth from him."
Spell 17 elaborates further on these gods, telling us that:
"As for the tribunal that is behind Osiris, Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, Kebehsenuef; it is these who are behind the Great Bear in the northern sky....As for these seven spirits, Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, Kebehsenuef, Maayotef, He-Who-is-under-his-Moringa-Tree, and Horus-the-Eyeless, it is they who were set by Anubis as a protection for the burial of Osiris."
In the tenth division of the Book of Gates, these supernatural beings are also shown restraining the ummti (wmmti) snakes, who were allies of Apophis, an enemy of Re, with chains.
Left: A depiction of Imsety
As protectors then, it is not surprising that from the Middle Kingdom through the Greco-Roman era, these deities are referenced in almost every tomb, and their powers are invoked upon almost all coffins and canopic equipment. We find actual representations of them during the 18th Dynasty on the sides of the coffin trough, with Anubis-Amywet and Anubis-Khenty-seh-netjer standing between the genii. They were also depicted on New Kingdom sarcophagi in stone and wood. During this period three dimensional representations of their heads adorned the lids of canopic jars, because they were thought to be either the guardians or the actual reincarnation of the specific organs removed during he mummification process. In this regard, Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef and Kebehsenuef were linked with the liver, lungs, stomach and intestines respectively, though sometimes the associations of Hapy and Duamutef are found switched about. They were also associated with other body parts. For example Hapy and Duamutef were linked to the hands, while Imsety and Kebehsenuef were linked with the feet (Spell 149 form the Pyramid Text).
Right: The Four Sons of Horus from the Tomb of Ay
On canopic equipment, their heads were originally depicted as human, though a few canopic chests from the Middle Kingdom depict them with falcon heads. During these early periods, they usually wear the divine tripartite wig, though in the tomb of King Ay in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Luxor (ancient Thebes), Imsety and Hapy are depicted wearing the Red Crown of Lower Egypt, while Duamutef and Kebeshsenuef wear the White Crown of Southern Egypt.
However, between the early 18th Dynasty and the middle 19th Dynasty, their heads were depicted differently, with Imsety's head remaining human, while Hapy took on the appearance of an Ape, Duamutef that of a Jackal, and Kebeshsenuef that of a falcon. This form of representation persisted into the Greco-Roman period, with the exception of the 22nd and 23rd Dynasties, when at least six different combinations of the gods can be found, the most common showing Duamutef and Kebeshsenuef swapping heads.
Left: Hapy as Baboon and Kebeshsenuef with a falcon head from the Tomb of Nefertari
Late in the 3rd Intermediate Period, these deities even gained more prominence. In addition to their presence on coffins and conopic equipment, faience amulets of the deities were attached to the bandages or other mummy wrappings. From the time of Ramesses III, was images of the Four Sons of Horus were placed in the mummy's body cavity.
Hypocephalus of the temple musician Neshorpakhered
From Thebes, Egypt Ptolemaic Period, 4th to 3rd century BC Inscribed with a spell to give warmth to the head of the deceased The hypocephalus, literally 'that which is below the head', was placed between the head of the mummy and the funerary headrest. The earliest examples appeared in the Late Period, around 664 BC. They were simply inscribed pieces of papyrus, mounted on cartonnage discs. By the Ptolemaic period (332-30 BC), they were made of linen stiffened with plaster, decorated with vignettes. The hieroglyphic inscription runs around the circumference of the disc. This example is decorated with scenes relating to the daily creation of the sun. The two boats represent the sun during the night (left) and the day (right). Below, baboons herald the birth of the sun, whose four heads represent the first four generations of creation. Below are figures associated with the Afterlife, including the four sons of Horus, who looked after the internal organs of the deceased. The spell around the outside of the disc is an abbreviated form of Chapter 162 of the Book of the Dead. It contains an appeal: 'Cause to come into being a flame beneath his head for he is the soul of that corpse which rests in Heliopolis, Atum is his name'. G. Pinch, Magic in Ancient Egypt (London, The British Museum Press, 1994) I. Shaw and P. Nicholson (eds.), British Museum dictionary of A (London, The British Museum Press, 1995) S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)
# Imsety (man-headed): liver; Hapy (baboon-headed): Lungs; Qebehsenuef (falcon-headed): intestines; Duamutef (jackal-headed): stomach
The word "mummification" comes from the Persian word "mummya" meaning bitumen or pitch. In the Arabic language mummification means tahneet and it comes from the word "hanoot", meaning the substances that are used to aromatize the body of the deceased. From this is derived the word "hanoty", which refers to the man who does the preparation of the deceased from death to burial. The Mummification Museum in Luxor is the best place to learn about the most powerful secrets of the pharaohs. It is set in an underground hall on the Nile, next to the national ferry on the east bank.The ancient Egyptians imagined the underground world of the dead, where Osiris dwelt, though this actually changed over time. From very early times, they protected the afterlife of the dead by mummification, offerings, writing the name of the deceased and utterances in their calls.
The collection of ancient funerary spells known as the Pyramids Texts tells us:
"Secure your head to the bones" (spell 13)"Collect your bones, gather together your limbs, throw the sand from your flesh" (spell 373)"The spirit is for the heavens, the corpse is for the Earth"
According to their beliefs, the ancient Egyptians thought that the survival of the body was necessary for the survival of the seven different elements of their being. These include:
The physical body, which was mummified, wrapped in linen and protected with various amulets in a coffin and deposited within it's tomb.
The Ka, which represented the vital life force, was created at the same time as a man's body, which it resembled in every respect. It was free to move between the burial chamber, the funerary statue and the offering place to collect the offerings.The Ba, often represented by a human headed Ba bird with features of the deceased could take any shape and it revisited the world of the living and traveled across the sky in the sun-god's boat, always returning to reunite with it's corpse in the tomb.The Akh was the most unearthly of spirits that severed all ties with mortal remains in order to join the cold and imperishable stars. This beneficent spirit gained through piety and good deeds.The Ib represented the aware heart. The heart could determine the worth of its owner during judgment.The Rn, or specifically the name of the deceased, was carved on the walls of the tombs and hymns were chanted to keep the deceased's name forever.The Inseparable Shadow, called the "shwt". The shadow remained with the body.
Although all those seven elements were important, they believed that the preservation of the physical body form was essential for survival in the afterlife. This is because they believed that the destruction of the body would mean the decay of the soul.All these elements are displayed in the Mummification Museum. There were also two other symbols that were vital for the Egyptians in the mummification process.The Ankh, (key of life), which was the symbol of life itself.The Djed Pillar, which is the symbol of stability, was thought to perhaps be linked with the backbone of Osiris.
Of course, the mummification process changed somewhat over time. In general though, shortly after death, the body of the deceased was brought to the pre-nefr, which means "the beautiful house" or the place of mummification. The body was stripped of its clothes, and the embalmers washed the body with scared water, which was taken from a sacred local lake.A chisel was passed through the ethmoid bone into the cranial cavity, and with a spatula they cut the brain into small pieces. Then a hooked rod was inserted, and turned to make the brain liquefy in order to extract the brain through the nostrils. After that, they cleaned the skull cavity with palm wine, stuffed it with linen and poured resinous liquid into the skull. After treating the head, the embalmers moved to the trunk of the body.The viscera were extracted through an incision, which was usually made in the left side of the abdomen. Through it, they extracted all of the entrails except the heart. The thoracic and abdominal cavities were cleaned and rinsed with palm-wine, and then treated with powder and ointment.The museum shows a wonderfully mummified vertical section of a body to show the result of this process. They show, as well, the instruments used in the process like the scissors, scalpel, and cutters.Lastly they placed each organ in one of four so-called canopic jars. These jars take the form of the four sons of Horus, who protected the mummified viscera.After they finished the extraction of the viscera they washed the body cavity with palm-wine. Then they inserted into the thoracic and abdominal cavities temporary stuffing materials enclosed in linen packets containing dry natron to speed dehydration of the body tissues and fats. Other packets were full of sawdust to absorb liquids.The next and final stage in the embalming process was the treatment of the whole body with natron. A type of salt, it extracts the water in the body tissues, drying it out to dehydrate the body. They placed the body in a heap of solid natron on a slanting bed and piled the natron around the body for forty days. The temporary stuffing packages and the natron dried the body, and were changed regularly by the embalmers. After the forty days, the body was taken out of the natron and the temporary stuffing packages were removed from the thoracic and abdominal cavities. They washed the chest and abdominal cavity with palm wine and stuffed it with fresh dry materials; these included aromatically perfumed cloth packing, Nile mud, myrrh, cassia, linen, resin, saw dust, and one or two onions.They then closed the two lips of the incision with linen string. After that the body was anointed with cedar oil. The mouth, ears, and the nose were sealed with bee's wax or linen in molten resin and the body was wrapped with linen. The aim of the wrapping was to preserve the mummy. Binding was used to keep the wrapping tight and in place.Many of the substances used in mummification are displayed at the Mummification Museum, including natron, which is still mined from the area of Wadi Natrun west of the delta near the north coast of Egypt. Other substances can even be purchased today from many spices dealers spread all around Luxor.The museum even shows a bottle that contains the mummification liquid. When the tomb of Amun Tef Nakht of the 27th Dynasty was discovered, the embalmers who mummified him left much of the materials of mummification with him. This liquid came from the results of the interaction between these materials and the body.The Mummification Museum demonstrates this process very clearly. There are drawings, copied from many tombs all over Egypt, that demonstrate the mummification process. There is, for instance, the scene of the deceased and his wife sitting down before the offering table. Their son wears the leopard skin and makes various offerings to his parents. This scene is displayed in the museum and was copied from the burial chamber of the tomb of Sennefer. Another scene from a papyrus of a royal scribe depicts the mummy on a funeral bier between Isis and Nephthys in the form of two birds.One of the most important displays in the Mummification Museum is the mummy of Masaharta, the son of King Panedjem, from the 21st Dynasty. He was a high priest of Amun and an army general during that dynasty. This mummy was found in the Dier El Bahari cache, which contained the mummies of some forty kings, queens and other royalty.The funerary boat is another very important cultural display in the museum. These were used to carry the mummy to the west bank in the presence of the goddess Isis, mother of Horus, wife of Osiris and Nephthys, mother of Anubis, wife of Seth and sister of Isis.Another important display is an Osiris statue. He is the father of Horus and the brother of Isis. He was thought to have been the first to be mummified by Anubis and the first one who was raised in the afterlife. He is the lord of the Judgment hall, the god of the dead, and one of the most famous Egyptian gods, particularly in later times.There is also Anubis, the jackal god. The myth tells that Anubis mummified the body of Osiris with the help of the four sons of Horus. For this, the Egyptian religion gave Anubis many titles such as the god of mummification and the one who protected the dead.
In the Mummification Museum there is a very interesting collection of mummified animals. There is a mummy of a fish, which is the symbol of rebirth. The fish cult center was Esna. The Nile is famous for this kind of fish, called the Nile lattes fish. There is also a mummified baboon. Baboons were considered the manifestation of the god Thoth, who was considered to be the god of scribes, the measurer of time and the god of the moon. In the judgment hall of Osiris, Thoth stands by the side of the balance holding a palette and records the results of the weighing of the heart as announced by the dog-headed ape who sits on the middle of the beam of the scales. There is also a cat mummy, the sacred animal of the god Bastet. The most wonderful animal mummy is that of a ram because it was held inside a gold coffin. It represents the sacred animal of the god Khnum, who was a creator god whose cult center was Elephantine.The last section of the museum is the coffins section. The pharaohs gave great attention to their afterlife, and a big element of this attention was the coffins. There is the beautiful coffin cover of Padi-Amun, the high priest of Amun. It has lotus flowers on its forehead and a wig. There is also the coffin cover of Masaharti, without the face and hands, because the thieves found it and took these golden
The lights in the museum are muted with only special spotlights on the displays. The museum isn't large but each display is a story in itself and reflects a very important section of the old Egyptian history and culture.
The Mummification Museum is useful because it provides an educational overview of the processes surrounding the death of ancient Egyptians, and therefore insight into the tombs that are frequented by tourists. Obviously, the traditions surrounding the funerary process were a key element in the ancient Egyptian belief system. Furthermore, Egyptian funerary practices can be said to form the basis of many funerary practices even today. Incidently, the bookshop at the Mummification Museum is an excellent place to pick up material on this fascinating topic.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I can remember the images of Cleopatra were always of a caucasions in skin texture. And I believe it's ashame that the wrong message has been placed out there ....as far as the Egyptians true shade of color. Cleopatra along with Nerfertiti were Black. Now there is proof in a 3-D image that proves other wise...
From Elizabeth Taylor to Sophia Loren, there have been many faces of Cleopatra. But this might be the most realistic of them all.
Egyptologist Sally Ann Ashton believes the compute regenerated 3D image is the best likeness of the legendary beauty famed for her ability to beguile.
Likeness: The computer-generated 3D image has been pieced together from images on ancient artefacts
Pieced together from images on ancient artefacts, including a ring dating from Cleopatra's reign 2,000 years ago, it is the culmination of more than a year of painstaking research.
The result is a beautiful young woman of mixed ethnicity - very different to the porcelain-skinned Westernised version portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1961 movie Cleopatra.
Realism: The result is a strikingly beautiful young woman of mixed ethnicity
Dr Ashton, of Cambridge University, said the images, to be broadcast as part of a Five documentary on Cleopatra, reflect the monarch's Greek heritage as well as her Egyptian upbringing.
'She probably wasn't just completely European. You've got to remember that her family had actually lived in Egypt for 300 years by the time she came to power.'
Detail: Image of Cleopatra on the temple walls of Dendera
The picture of the queen contrasts with several other less flattering portrayals. For instance, a silver coin which went on show at Newcastle University's Sefton Museum last year showed her as having a shallow forehead, pointed chin, thin lips and hooked nose. Her lover, the Roman general Mark Antony, fared little better.
The reverse side shows him to have bulging eyes and a thick neck. The queen's appearance has long been the subject of debate among academics. While Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra made reference to her youthful looks and 'infinite-variety', many believe she was short and frumpy with bad teeth.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
The earliest settlers of the Nile river valley worshipped the falcon deity Horus as the god of the sky and in the Book of the Dead the Sun is depicted as the right eye of Horus with the Moon represented as his left. The Sun was also symbolised by the mythical Bennu bird (or Phoenix as it was known to the Greeks), which dies in its own fire and rises from its ashes, symbolising death and resurrection. The worship of the Sun and the sky god Horus overshadowed Egyptian celestial mythology so much that, apart from the Moon, the five visible planets appear insignificant by comparison. Known as 'the stars that know no rest', they were portrayed as deities sailing across the sky in barks with the superior planets generally looked upon as manifestations of the sky god Horus. Mars was known as 'Horus the Red' or 'Horus of the Horizon' and usually depicted as a red flamingo. Jupiter, believed to be a revealer of secrets, was often symbolized by a falcon-headed god with a star over its head and known as 'Horus who illuminates the Two Lands' (a reference to its brilliance), 'Southern Star of the Sky' and 'He who opens Mystery'. Saturn, whose symbol was a square, was known as 'Horus, Bull of the Sky' and represented by the figure of a man or falcon with a bull's head. Little is known of his characteristics except that the use of the term 'bull' was frequently employed as a reference to strength and power. In most astrological depictions, Venus and Mercury are shown standing apart from the superior planets. They were thought to have dual natures because they appeared only in the guise of morning or evening stars. Venus was known as 'god of the morning' or 'the star that crosses', which may be a reference to the fact that it is only observed around the east or west horizon. It was originally depicted with the head of a heron-type bird, later as a two headed falcon. Mercury was attributed a distinctly malevolent character as an evening star and associated with Seth, the malicious son of Ra, who personified evil, darkness, thunder, storm and all things inexplicable. According to Neugebauer and Parker's study of astronomical references and drawings, the Egyptian name for Mercury in this form is Sbg, 'unknown', with references to the planet frequently accompanied by the name of Seth or a representation of him with a beak shaped nose and long ears. Some texts read "Seth in the evening twilight, a god in the morning twilight" and as a morning star its nature was much more beneficial, offering a closer resemblance to the characteristics we associate with Mercury today. In this form he was known as Sebek, 'the excellent one', depicted by a human headed figure and symbolised by a scroll. The Moon, as Khonsu, was worshipped with great honour at Thebes in the form of a human headed child-god, the son of Amon and Mut. He was known as 'the Traveler' due to his rapid movement through the heavens, and frequently shown wearing the crescent of the Moon upon his head. The goddess Isis was also seen in the lunar image and one myth speaks of Isis being beheaded by Horus and lent the head of a cow by Thoth. Jane Sellers, in her book The Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, has made a strong case in showing that the myths directly reflected celestial events, Isis here being seen in the Moon's eclipse by the Sun and returning in the appearance of the Moon's first horns. The main lunar deity was Thoth, god of Wisdom and Learning, who embodied many of the principles currently attributed to Mercury. He is reported to have invented arithmetic, geometry, medicine and astronomy and was known as the god of Letters - the great Scribe and Secretary to the Gods. But whereas mercurial energy is nowadays considered to represent a mainly rational, intellectual capacity, in the form of Thoth - a revered magician, the one who had knowledge of the magical formulae needed by the dead to pass safely through the Underworld - we see how the essence of such knowledge was held to be far more profound and spiritual. Thoth was the personification of the Mind and Intelligence of the Creator. His influence over writing was an expression of his sacred powers since the ability to define concepts in words, both visually and through sound, was considered a supernatural gift. Words themselves, and the way they were constructed, were conceived as magical symbols, mirrors of the Divine Mind. Spoken with proper intonation and with the correct spiritual approach, they were the means to summon the gods, heal the sick and command obedience. Writing was a priestly study, held in awe by the uneducated - a magical, mystical art. When the classical culture invaded Egypt, they sought to capture the deep reverence afforded to Thoth and amalgamated his characteristics into their own god Hermes. Consequently Thoth is often referred to as the original author of the Hermetic texts, a legendary collection of magical works, said to contain all the mystical knowledge of the ancient world. The books were so sacred that only the highest order of priests were allowed to touch them and the last complete set is reputed to have been entombed in the grave of Alexander the Great. There have, however, been many alleged copies of the texts, which are frequently quoted by later authors and play a substantial role in medieval and renaissance works. Marsilio Ficino was an early translator; his work The Book of Life is drawn from Hermetic sources and is presently gaining increasing attention as a founding text for modern archetypal astrology.  There are many fine representations of the zodiac in Egyptian temple reliefs but, although once thought to date back several millennia before the birth of Christ, recent dating techniques suggest they cannot be considered older than the 3rd century BC. One of the most spectacular is the ceiling relief from the temple of Hathor at Dendara. Roz Park, in her forthcoming book Astrology in Ancient Egypt, believes the mural depicts a celebration of the convergence of the sidereal and tropical zodiacs and the ingress of the vernal point into Pisces. The zodiacal constellations are easily recognisable and the planets are located in the signs of their exaltations, with the 36 decans clearly marked around the perimeter. Evidence shows that the concept of the zodiac is not native to Egypt because it is predated by the Mesopotamians by two centuries. What is clear, however, is that the zodiac contains much Egyptian imagery and mysticism which may have been imported into Mesopotamia at some earlier, unknown date, but which certainly continues to influence astrology as it is practiced today.
I am grateful to Roz Park for her feedback and help in preparing this article for publication.
Amon Ra ram statue
Ram headed sphinxes on the first court of the temple of Karnak.
The Egyptian gods and goddesses were numerous and were pictured in many reliefs. Certain gods were seen in the constellations, and others were represented by actual astronomical bodies. The constellation Orion, for instance, represented Osiris, who was the god of death, rebirth, and the afterlife. The Milky Way represented the sky goddess Nut giving birth to the sun god Re. The stars in Egyptian mythology were represented by the goddess of writing, Seshat, whilst the Moon was either Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing, or Khons.
The horizon had great significance to the Egyptians, since it was here that the sun would both appear and disappear daily. The sun itself was represented by several gods, depending on its position within the sky. A rising morning sun was associated with Horus, the divine child of Osiris and Isis. The noon sun was Re because of its incredible strength. The evening sun became Atum, the creator god who lifted pharaohs from their tombs to the stars. The redness of the setting sun was considered to be the blood from the sun god as he "died" and became associated with Osiris, god of death and rebirth. In this way, night became to be associated with death, and the daytime with life or rebirth. This reflects the typical Egyptian idea of immortality.
Astronomy for use in daily lifeThe centre of Egyptian civilisation was the Nile. Flooding every year at the same time, it provided rich soil for agriculture. The Egyptian astronomers, who were actually priests, recognised that the flooding always occurred at the summer solstice, which also just happened to be when the bright star Sirius rose before the sun. By interpreting and using this information, the priests were subsequently able to predict the annual flooding, a skill which in turn rendered them considerable power. The year was divided into twelve 30 day months, followed by a five day feast period. Because the Egyptian calendar did not have leap years, it cycled through the seasons completely every 1460 years. The period that elapsed between these risings is known as the "sothic cycle". Over ancient Egypt's history, the months completely rotated through the seasons at least twice due to this quarter day discrepancy.
Although the Egyptians knew of this quarter-day error, they still maintained their 365 day calendar for ceremonial reasons.
Many Egyptian buildings were built with an astronomical orientation. The temples and pyramids were constructed in relation to the stars, and in different towns throughout the country, buildings would have a different orientation based on the specific religion of the place. Temples were often built so that sunlight entered a room at only one precise time of the year.Astronomy for use in datingOne of the hardest tasks of the modern Egyptologist is to attempt to tie together, in some sort of chronological order, the pieces of evidence from burials, tombs, temples, archaeological excavations and a range of other sources. The surviving records of observations of the "heliacal rising" of the dog star Sirius serve as the lynchpin of the Egyptian calendar and its essential link with Ancient Egyptian chronology as a whole.
The "Sothic rising" of Sirius coincided with the beginning of the solar year only once every 1456 - 1460 years (because of precession of the equinoxes and proper motion of Sirius it was usually a few days earlier than the 1460 years that the ancients had predicted). This rare event took place in AD 139 during the reign of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius, and was commemorated by the issue of a special coin at Alexandria. Earlier heliacal risings would have taken place in around 1321-1317 BC and 2781-2777 BC.
Astrological terms and beliefs in ancient Egypt
The term used to refer to the annual ten day period when Sirius the "dog star" would rise above the horizon at dawn.
The goddess Sopdet was the personification of the "dog star", known to the Greeks as Seirios (Sirius). Sopdet was the most important star to the Ancient Egyptians, and was known as a decon. Together with her husband Sah (Orion), and her son Soped, Sopdet formed part of a divine triad which paralleled that of Osiris, Isis and Horus.
The god Sah was the personification of the constellation later known as Orion. Sah was described as "the glorious soul of Osiris" and formed a divine triad with the dog star Sopdet and their son Soped, god of the "eastern border".
The son of Sopdet and Sah, Soped was a hawk-god and personification of the eastern frontier of Egypt.
Ancient Egyptian star-gods. Deities known as the "imperishable ones" personified the ever visible circumpolar stars in the north of the sky.
The Ancient Egyptians would divide night sky into 36 groups of star-gods or constellations. These groups were known as decons, and each specific decan rose above the horizon at dawn for a period of ten days every year. The brightest and most important of these was the dog star Sirius, otherwise known as the goddess Sopdet. The ceilings of many royal tombs depict the night sky as groups of star-gods or decons, moving across the sky in boats.
The earliest detailed texts relating to astronomy are the "diagonal calendars" or star clocks. These were painted on the wooden coffin lids of the early Middle Kingdom, and also the Late Period. These calendars consisted of 36 columns which listed the 36 decons and detailed the rising period of each. This calendar system was flawed by its failure to take into account that the Egyptian year was always approximately six hours short. This would add up to a shortcoming of around ten days every 40 years.
From as early as the Middle Kingdom, the Egyptians recognised five of the planets: Jupiter ("Horus who limits two lands"), Mars ("Horus of the horizon", or "Horus the red"), Mercury (Sebegu, a god associated with Seth), Saturn ("Horus, bull of the sky") and Venus ("the one who crosses", or "god of the morning"). The Egyptians portrayed the planets as deities sailing across the heavens in barques, and they were known as the "stars that know no rest".
The belief that the stars could influence human destiny does not appear to have reached Egypt until the Ptolemaic period. By the 1st century AD the Babylonian zodiac had been adopted. This zodiac can be seen represented on the ceiling of the chapel of Osiris on the roof of the temple of Hathor at Dendera.
The "instrument of knowing" was a sighting tool made from the central rib of a palm leaf and was similar in function to an astrolobe. The merkhet was used for aligning the foundations of the pyramids and sun temples with the cardinal points, and was usually correct to within less than half a degree. It was developed around 600 BC. and uses a string with a weight on the end to accurately measure a straight vertical line, much like a plumb bob. A pair of merkhets were used to establish a north-south line by lining them up with the pole star. This allowed for the measurement of night-time hours as it measured when certain stars crossed a marked meridian on the sundial.
Literally meaning "the stretching of the cord", the Pedj Shes was a ceremony performed to work out the correct alignment for the building of temples and pyramids. It relied on the sightings of the constellations of Orion and Ursa Major (the great bear) and used the sighting instrument called a "merkhet" ("instrument of knowing").
Discover why "sothic dating" has such importance in ancient Egypt's modern day chronology >>
In the New Kingdom period (circa 1500 to 1100 BCE), the classical astronomical representations were painted on temple ceilings (i.e., the Ramesseum ceiling) and on the sepulchral vaults of kings (i.e., the tomb of Senmut). (The Ramesseum (a temple complex which was built for Ramses II, whose reign lasted from 1279 to 1212 BCE) is situated in Upper Egypt at Luxor (formerly known as Thebes) on the west bank of the Nile River.)
The "astronomical ceilings," some from tombs and some from temples, are amongst the most important surviving Egyptian "astronomical documents." These particular ceilings contain decorative motifs and were designed to provide both a symbolic and schematic summary of astronomical knowledge. During the 1930s the astronomer Alexander Pogo (then working at Harvard University (following his 1929 appointment as a Fellow in the History of Science by the Carnegie Institution)) conducted investigations of Egyptian astronomy and (1) first recognised the astronomical content of inscriptions on coffin lids from the end of the Middle Kingdom, and (2) the relationship between these simple pictures and the elaborate representations on the tomb ceilings of kings of the New Kingdom period.
It would appear that by the late 2nd-millennium BCE the Egyptians had divided the sky into a small number of very large constellations. By circa 1100 BCE, not including the 36 decans, an Egyptian catalog of the universe had marked the sky with 5 or 6 very large constellations (including such animal figures as the Hippopotamus, Ox, and Crocodile). Two of these constellations were similar to the Western constellations Orion and Ursa Major. As the Egyptians were accustomed to regard the whole sky as a figure of the goddess Nut, supported on hands and feet, it posed no difficulties for them to develop constellation figures of half that extent. (The constellation figure of Nekht ("mighty man") must, by the description of its hourly parts, have extended over 6 hours.) During the 1st-millennium BCE these constellations would be divided further into some 25 constellations. The grouping of constellations around (and including) the Big Dipper stars is conveniently described as the northern group of constellations. The designation is not necessarily restricted to the the circumpolar stars. The northern group of constellations included a lion, a crocodile, a bull's foreleg (also represented as a complete bull), a boatman, a giant man, and/or a huge female hippopotamus with a crocodile tail (or an entire crocodile) on her back.
In 1985 Kurt Locher offered his view that the circumpolar constellations could be identified as Crocodile, Hippopotamus, Chain, Mooring Posts, (God) Anu, and Foreleg. However, it is more difficult to determine correspondence between the ancient Egyptian constellations and our present-day Western constellations. All of the northern constellation figures are not located in the same positions on Egyptian tombs and ceilings. The northern constellation figures drawn on the ceiling of the burial chamber in the tomb of Seti I (19th Dynasty) are positioned differently to the same northern constellation figures drawn in the tomb of Senmut (Senenmut) (18th Dynasty).
The northern (circumpolar) stars were called lkhemu-sek (imperishable stars), because they never sink below the horizon. The southern stars were called lkhemu-wredj (unwearying stars), because they rose on the eastern horizon and set on the western horizon. The ecliptic can be conveniently used as an arbitrary dividing line between the northern constellations and the southern constellations. The southern group of constellations was essentially formed by the belt of individual stars and asterisms comprising the decanal belt. The goddess Nut was the Milky Way.
It appears the oldest existing northern constellation is Meskhetyw (the foreleg of a bull). This constellation appears on the inside of a coffin lid excavated at Asyut and dating from the First Intermediate Period (circa 2145 BCE to circa 2025 BCE). To the left of the foreleg is vertical hieroglyphic writing stating Meskhetyw m pet (Meskhetyw in the northern sky).
Two identifiable constellations among the southern Egyptian star groups are Sah (corresponding to the current Orion's belt) and Sepdet (corresponding to Sirius). Due to Sah rising 1 hour before Sirius in the decanal tables Sah is commonly interpreted by Egyptologists as the constellation Orion. The name Sah is first found in the "Pyramid Text" engraved in the pyramid of Unas (the last king of the 5th Dynasty Old Kingdom). He reigned circa 2340 BCE to circa 2320 BCE. The figures of both Sah and Sepdet appear on wooden coffin lids dating between the First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom.
An alternative name for the Bull's thigh (= Foreleg of the bull)", which was the "big dipper" asterism, was "The foreleg of Seth." The Boatman comprised Orion's belt and some other stars. The Hippopotamus was identified with the goddess Isis - at least in the New Kingdom Period (1570-1070 BCE). The Hippopotamus and the Giant Man took up about half the sky.
One of the few constellations that is unambiguously identifiable is the constellation of Orion (Sah). However, the association of names with its individual stars is indeterminate. (The only one of the decans that is able to be unambiguously identified is Sirius (Sepdet).) A coffin lid provides the only other certain constellation identification from ancient Egypt. A scene on a coffin lid depicts the 7 stars of the Big Dipper asterism (part of Ursa Major) in the form of the foreleg (thigh) of an Ox (not Taurus) and is named Meskhetyw (Meskheitu (Mshtyw)). (This constellation is not part of the decanal system or the star tables.) It is the only example of a pattern of stars being actually drawn in approximately the known configuration. (The Hippopotamus is commonly identified with the stars of Draco, the Dragon.)
The Senmut tomb has the oldest intact representation of the northern constellations. Above is a reconstruction (by Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker (EAT, Volume 3, Text)) of the arrangement of the ancient Egyptian northern constellations depicted on the Senmut ceiling. The circumpolar constellations were important to the Egyptians because they never appeared before the rising sun. As such they were often linked with the powers of darkness and with ferocious animals. The (unfinished) tomb of Senmut is located at Deir el-Bahri, Luxor. (Senmut was an architect and the vezir of Queen Hatshepsut.) It dates to circa 1473 BCE. This is approximately three centuries latter than the astronomical inscriptions on coffin lids from the end of the Middle Kingdom. The tomb has the earliest preserved ceiling discovered to date. Whilst placing representations of the sky on ceilings is quite logical the practice also contributes to their easy destruction.
On the ceiling of the decorated chamber there is a decan list and planets (excepting Mars), northern constellations and deities, and lunar calendar.
The arrangement of the ancient Egyptian northern constellations on the astronomical ceiling of Hall K of the tomb of Seti I. No written record survives for identifying the constellations depicted.
Seti I (reigned 1303-1290 BCE) was the son and heir of Ramses I. The tomb of Seti I is located in the Valley of the Kings, Luxor. It is the next well-preserved astronomical ceiling after that of Senmut's tomb. It has close parallels in the tomb of Ramses IV (Dynasty XX, circa 1100 BCE) and later Egyptian rulers. The content of the vaulted ceiling of Hall K comprises a decan list and planets with deities, northern constellations and deities.
Also contained within the Seti I tomb are decorations of the complete versions of the Book of the Dead, the Book of the Gates, the Book of the Caverns, the Book of the Day, the Book of the Night, and the Book of the Cow of Heaven. Further, there is the text of the Deliverance of Mankind, and the Litany of the Sun.
The papyrus "Carlsberg 1", though written more than 1000 years after the Seti 1 text, is a commentary to these inscriptions.
The astronomical ceiling (Denderah zodiac) located at the temple of Hathor in Denderah, Egypt dates to the Late Ptolemaic Period (i.e., late Hellenistic Period). The representation of the Egyptian sky is called the Denderah zodiac because it depicts the (Babylonian-Greek) zodiacal constellations (and other Egyptian constellations). (All Egyptian zodiacs are late and originated in the Hellenistic and Roman periods.) Construction began on the temple of Hathor circa 125 BCE and it was finished circa 60 CE. The Denderah circular zodiac itself is dated circa 36 BCE or 30 BCE. It is the oldest known representation of the zodiac.
Appendix 1: Astronomical Ceilings
The "astronomical ceilings" from tombs and temples provide an important schematic summary of the astronomical knowledge of the Egyptians. There are about 20 astronomical wall paintings depicting the northern constellations, dating back to the 15th-century BCE.
The oldest known example of an 䳴ronomical ceiling" is from the second or "secret" tomb of Senmut, dating to the 15th-century BCE, which is located to the east of Deir el-Bahri in the western Theban necropolis.The ceiling of this tomb is unfinished. It is, however, the best preserved of all the surviving examples of "astronomical ceilings." The ceiling is divided into northern and southern panels. The upper portion of the southern panel contains a list of decans showing their relation to the star clocks. Also portrayed are a number of constellations: the ship, the sheep, Osiris in a boat (Orion), and Isis in a boat (Sothis). The centre of the northern panel features a set of figures representing the northern circumpolar constellations.
Other examples of "astronomical ceilings" are: (1) the ceiling of the second hypostyle hall of the Ramesseum (dated circa 1213 BCE); (2) the mortuary temple of Rameses II on the ceiling of Hall K in tomb KV 17 belonging to Seti I. Nearly all "astronomical ceilings" include some representation of the northern constellations and the decanal stars.
Appendix 2: The Goddess Nut
Nut was the ancient Egyptian goddess of he heavens and sky. The ancient Egyptians conceived of the goddess Nut as a naked female who arches her body across the sky (basically east to west and like the arc of the sky) in a protective posture over the earth. Nut's fingers and toes were believed to touch the 4 cardinal points or directions. A myth, recorded in dynastic times, has the god Ra entering Nut's mouth, passing through her starry body, and emerging, reborn, from her loins. According to the astronomer Ronald Wells her figure, during the 3rd-millennium BCE, the Milky Way was believed to represent the goddess Nut. In his 1996 essay (but originally suggested in 1994) "Astronomy in Egypt" (in: Astronomy Before the Telescope) Ronald Wells theorized that the Egyptians equated Nut's body with the Milky Way, seeing her head in our constellation Gemini, and her birth canal in Cygnus, where cosmic dust clouds split the Milky Way into two "legs." He pointed out that early in Egyptian prehistory, about 6,500 years ago, the Sun would have set just before Gemini-Nut's head-at the spring equinox, as if swallowed by the goddess. Nine months later, at the winter solstice, the Sun, reborn, would have risen very close to Cygnus, as if emerging from the birth canal. However, many Egyptologists and archaeoastronomers consider this particular theory of Ronald Wells as highly speculative.
Copyright ? 2005-2008 by Gary D. Thompson