ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Behold:



These figures appear on the back pillar of a magical healing statue, Turin 3031, which portrayed a man holding a Horus cippus. Only the lower part has survived.

If that's an accurate rendering of "Sekhmet the Great, beloved of Ptah", then her phallus seems to have slid down to her knees. Kákosy compares her to other lioness-headed, ithyphallic figures, from Karnak and Hibis, and also "the statue in Naples inv. 1065 back pillar right side ref V.1.", which alas I seem to have neglected to photocopy.

There are enough examples of this figure - the ithyphallic lioness-headed goddess - to say that it was definitely A Thing, a rare example of androgyny in Egyptian religion. But what did it mean to the ancients? If it's a syncretism between Mut or Sekhmet and a specific male god or gods, then why not name them? Perhaps it was comparable to pantheistic figures - showing that the deity in question had the powers of all the gods, male and female?

ETA: Figures labelled as Sekhmet appear elsewhere on the same statue - which makes sense for a goddess associated with sickiness and healing. The goddess takes various forms: holding two snakes; holding a long double-headed snake ("Sekhmet who subdues the Rebel"); as a lion-headed uraeus, presented with the wedjat by a baboon (presumably a reference to the tale of the Distant Goddess); and as a lion lying on a shrine, wearing the atef crown ("Sekhmet the Great who dwells in the City" (perhaps Thebes)).

Nefertum also makes multiple appearances, firstly to the left of Horus on the cippus, in the form of a lotus with tall plume hung with two pairs of menits. The texts on the cippus which refer to this symbol name "Horus the Saviour", who Kákosy speculates was identified with Nefertem in this case. Kákosy writes that this symbol was "a potent emblem" and says that Nefertem and his lotus often appear in magic; Horus on the papyrus, which appears on the right side of the cippus opposite Neferterm's symbol as its "counterpart", "may have been the symbol of rejuvenation and freshness of health" as well as the union of male and female (many goddesses hold a papyriform sceptre).

There are several other interesting figures, such as Sobek pulling a snake out of his mouth and two cats flanking a sistrum. "Khonsu the Great who came forth from the Nun" appears in the form of a crocodile on a pedestal with a falcon-head and sun-disc emerging from its back.

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Kákosy, László. Egyptian Healing Statues in Three Museums in Italy: Turin, Florence, Naples. Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali, Soprintendenza al Museo delle antichità egizie, 1999.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
I couldn't remember for the life of me why I'd borrowed this, so I just went through the index looking for interesting stuff. What an appalling thing to do with a book. Anyway:

The Hermopolitan Ogdoad (p 49): "Nun and Naunet, the primordial water; Heh and Hauhet, infinity in its spatial form; Kek and Kauket, darkness; and Amun and Amaunet, the hidden; this last pair being later replaced by Niau and Niaut, who symbolize the void." I wonder if that substitution represents a promotion for Amun to obscure snake in the lake to Creator. "Amaunet received a cult at Thebes from Dynasty 18 on" (p 26)

Re, in an unpublished papyrus at the Turin Museum (p 47): "When I manifested myself, manifestations manifested themselves. I had manifested myself as a manifestation of the existing: I manifested myself and manifestations manifested themselves, for I acted prior to the anterior gods I had created. If I acted priorly among the anterior ones, it was that my name existed prior to theirs, if I created anterior time and the anterior gods, it was to create all that is desirable on this earth." That's a lot of khepers.

"The two gods who were lords of the [Kom Ombo] temple each had his own divine 'family', made up of a mother goddess and a child god: to the triad Sobek-Hathor-Khons corresponded the triad Haroeris-Tasenetnefret ('the Good Sister')-Panebtawy ('the Lord of the Two Lands')... The theological system of Kom Ombo is extremely complex... [its myths] present original doctrines that constitute the specific 'theology' of the temple, in which two themes, one universalist and the other local, are juxtaposed to and combined with one another.' (p 228-9) And naturally the bloody reference is in French: A. Gutbub, Textes fondamentauz de la theéologie de Kom Ombo (Cairo, 1973).

The Nubian deity Aresnuphis had a temple at Philae. (p 229)

"The foreign deities - Reshep, Baal, Anat, Astarte, and Qadesh - all had a human figure that the Egyptians assigned to them. Without doubt, they would have found it difficult to slip into animal or composite form, for these stem from the deep structure of the Egyptian concept of the divine." (p 18-19) But the Canaanite god Haurun was falcon-headed, and then "he was identified totally with the sun god he had become in the New Kingdom: Hamarkhis, the Great Sphinx of Giza." As Haurun-Hamarkhis, he was represented as the sphinx. (p 19) Sopdu was also a foreigner who "kept watch over the east of the land both inside and outside the frontier of Egypt". (p 18) Plus in Ptolemaic times there was "the divine Thracian horseman Heron", worshipped in Faiyum villages "whose populations included a large contingent of... former soldiers settled on land granted to them by the crown." (p 246) Other foreign gods worshipped in Egypt included Bendis (Thracian), Mithra (Persian), and Kybele and Attis. (p 276)

"... the bestiary present in the divine iconography was extremely coherent. It did not include animals that could live in Egypt at a remote point in time (giraffe, rhinoceros, elephant) but left because of climate change well before the period of historical, political, and religious formation, nor did it include those introduced at a much later time, such as the horse. More precisely put, while the horse played a role, it was in direct relation to foreign deities such as Anat and Astarte, who entered the native pantheon in the New Kingdom." (p 17)

Astarte and Reshep were introduced during the NK. "Astarte in particular, with the epithet 'daughter of Ptah', had her own temple at Memphis, the temple of the 'foreign Aphrodite' mentioned by Herodotus.' (p 276)

At Esna, Khnum is called "father of fathers, mother of mothers", and "associated with several goddesses, in particular Neith, the very ancient goddess of Sais, who at Esna was also a creative power and bisexual. Heqa, their divine child, received a cult in the mammisi... At Esna, the theme of creation is quite important and includes the 'raising of the sky', the modelling of humanity by the potter god, and the formation of the world by means of the 'seven creative words' of Neith." (p 227) Once again the reference (Sauneron) is en Fraçais. Zut!

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Françoise Dunand and Christiane Zivie-Coche. Gods and Men in Egypt: 3000 BCE to 395 CE. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 2004.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
In his much-imitated 1922 essay "Memorial Service", H.L. Mencken gives a lengthy list of "dead gods" whose worship has long been abandoned. Though Mencken's basic point is valid, his actual list is full of inaccuracies (as is his characterisation of ancient thought and worship). For example, he lists both Marduk and one of Marduk's epithets, U-dimmer-an-kia, "Lord of Heaven and Earth" as separate gods - even though the difference is made clear in his probable source, the Religion of Assyria and Babylonia.

Sometimes, paging through accounts of Phoenician and Palmyran or Egyptian gods, I feel the way Mencken must have as he ran an eye over the trilingual list in Pinches' book - overwhelmed! For example: a chapter on "Snwy, father of Sobek", which mentions not just those two crocodile gods (and alternative names for Snwy, p3-Snwy and Psosnaus, as well as Snwy-Ra) but also Sokanobkoneus, Soknobrasis, Pnepheros, Petesuchos, Soknebtynis, Soknopaios, and Sokonpieios. (To paraphrase Mencken: you may think that I invent the names. I do not.) Also mentioned are the gods Heron, Isis-Nepheros, and the serpent-goddess of Narmouthis, alongside more familiar deities like Amun and Bastet. Blimey! It wouldn't take long to whip up a list of gods ten times as long as Mencken's, or even the longer lists put about on the net by atheists.

The chapter gives a table of localities and which gods were worshipped where - IIUC some of these are local variants of Sobek. Interestingly, the Book of the Faiyum has a section where the local god of every nome in Egypt was represented in crocodile form. If your god's a croc, apparently, all gods are crocs - or at least, the animal becomes shorthand for "god", wherever they are.

(Poking around in non-English language Wikipedias turned up even more Egyptian gods I hadn't previously encountered, such as Âbâset, the lioness goddess Âperet-Isis, the Meroitic Sbomeker. And then there's Kebechet and Horhekenu and the four Asebet goddesses, and Ninsi'anna, an aspect of Inanna/Ishtar... If I was trying to be a completionist I would be in desperate trouble.)

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El-Weshahy, Mofida. "'Swny', the father of Sobek". in Basem El-Sharkaway (ed). The Horizon: Studies in Egyptology in Honour of M. A. Nur El-Din. The American University in Cairo Press, 2010.

Neith

Dec. 18th, 2012 10:21 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
In his article on Neith, C.J. Bleeker discusses a reference to the goddess and her temple in Plutarch's Isis and Osiris: "In Saïs the statue of Athena, whom they believe to be Isis, bore the inscription: 'I am all that has been, and is, and shall be, and my robe no mortal has yet uncovered.'" Bleeker points out that Neith is the goddess of weaving, and that the last part of the inscription would be better rendered: "no mortal has ever unriddled my web" - that is, "nobody has ever guessed the nature of the goddess Neith".

Sadly, all Neith's temples are now lost, with the exception of Esna. She was probably worshipped since prehistoric times, with Saïs the centre of her cult. Bleeker remarks that "the cult of Neith flourished in several periods which are far apart" - the earliest pharaohs, the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty (the Saïtes), and Ptolemaic times.

Bleeker gives a handy list of the gods worshipped at Esna; Khnum, his consorts Nebtu and Menhyt, and his son Heqa; Neith and her sons Tutu and Shema Nefer; and Osiris and Isis. Bleeker emphases the equality of the temples' chief deities, Khnum and Neith, who divided it between them (Neith had the northern part); both were identified with Tatanen (and Neith with Renenutet). He also points out that Neith has children but no consort, as befits an androgynous creatrix.

Discussing Neith's association with weaponry, Bleeker suggests her symbol "represents a case in which two bows are kept", and speculates that the female ka symbol, two crossed arrows in front of a shield, could represent her protection of women. Her arrows could hold off demons. Her bow was carried in ritual procession; another ceremony involved arrows being shot in the four cardinal directions, symbolising her universal victory.

Neith appears in the Am Duat, generally wearing the red crown but without weapons, in the fourth, tenth, and eleventh hours. In the latter, she's shown with four forms (the first two with the white crown): Neith the child, Neith the queen of Upper Egypt, Neith the queen of Lower Egypt, and "Neith fecondée" - Neith the pregnant!

"As Neith also acts as mother of Sebek... it is not surprising that she is represented suckling two crocodiles." Man! I have to find a picture of that. ETA: Ermagherd! (Shades of the Mesopotamia lamashtu, shown suckling a dog and a pig. Also like the antimatter version of Horus on the crocodiles.)

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C.J. Bleeker. "The Egyptian Goddess Neith". in The Rainbow: a collection of studies in the science of religion (Studies in the history of religions 30). Leiden: Brill, 1975.

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