ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
There are Amduat images over at my Tumblr, dwellerinthelibrary, which focusses on mythology, especially the irresistable visuals of Ancient Egypt. (I can see have a bit of tidying up work to do over there, though!)

The cosmic drama comes to its climax in the seventh hour, as Apophis tries to stop the sun-boat, preventing the sun-god's rebirth and "repeat[ing] the murder of Osiris". (And this battle takes place every night! The Egyptians lived with a constant threat the universe will come to its end. It's like growing up in the eighties.) Apophis dries up the water, and the barque can no longer be towed; it sails on by magical power, provided by Isis, Set (called "the eldest magician"), and the sun-god, who is protected by the Mehen-serpent, while the goddess Selkis puts Apophis in shackles and her assistants chop him to bits.

The sun barque still has a long way to go and a lot of work to do before dawn. The middle register of the eighth hour is another long scene of the barque being towed, including "the four rams of Tatenen, the god of the depths of the earth". Again the ram symbolizes the four ba-souls of Re, here identifying him with Tatenen. (Exactly which four gods those four ba-souls represent changes with the source, in typical Egyptian fashion.)

The upper and lower registers are each divided (by doors again called "knives") into five caverns. The hieroglyph for "cloth" appears repeatedly (often with someone sitting on it), with fresh clothing being provided for the afterlife and as part of the general business of rebirth. Osiris (also protected by the Mehen-serpent) sits in judgment on his foes, who are decapitated (by a cat-eared demon). The sun-god sends the stars "on their way, since their stable orbits are a sign of the continuous order of the cosmos".

This bit blows my mind. "The texts in the vaults describe how the Ba-souls of these beings respond to the generous promises of the Sungod. Human ears hear their jubilation as cries of animals and sounds of nature, like the humming of bees, banging on metal, the screeching of tomcats, the crying of birds, the roaring of bulls, etc. The Sungod, however, is able to recognize what their distorted voices are shouting."

The work of renewal continues in the ninth hour, with bread and beer provided to the dead by three "idols" sitting on what look like neb-baskets. The darkness is illuminated by twelve fire-breathing ureai. In the tenth hour ("With Deep Water and High Banks" – the barque is afloat again, at least part of the time), the solar eyes are restored; eight forms of Sekhmet stand before a seated Thoth, who holds the whole eye. Horus rescues the bodies of drowned people from decomposition (as Isis rescued the parts of Osiris' body from the Nile).

The leftmost figure of the eleventh hour is the "Time Lord" (well, the "Master of Time", with three faces: the sun disc in the middle, and two crowned heads looking left and right (ie backwards and forwards), representing the two Egyptian concepts of time, nḥḥ and dt. Next, Atum repeats the gesture made by Sokar back in the fifth hour, holding (lifting?) the wings of a serpent, with the paired eyes appearing on either side of him. The renewed sun-disc now appears in the prow of the barque; it's preceded by fire-breathing goddesses riding "double serpents", and by twelve gods carrying the Mehen-serpent. Isis and Nephthys, in the form of ureai, carry the red and white crowns.

Meanwhile, the condemned are punished once more, "at depths not visited by the Sungod… 'completely deep, completely dark, completely infinite'", in pits into which armed goddesses and the serpent "Who Burns Millions" spit fire. ("You have not come into being," declares Horus of the Netherworld, "you are upside down!" Take that!)

Finally we've reached the twelfth hour, where gods (including the sun-god) and the blessed dead walk through the body of the Mehen-serpent from tail to mouth, emerging rejuvenated. The sun-god has been reborn as Khepri, and Shu lifts him to the horizon. Osiris remains behind in the Duat - shown as a corpse lying against its curved wall. (Both authors remark that the helpful Mehen-serpent points in the direction as the barque, while Apophis points in the opposite direction. "Nevertheless, later Egyptian texts speculate about Apophis having not only an evil, but also a positive, regenerating aspect." – which makes me think of Set's dual role as Osiris' enemy, but Re's ally against Apophis.)

Hornung has briefly summarized the Amduat, pointing out a few key or interesting highlights, and I've summarized his summary! I'm struck, though, by how much internal logic there is, how much sense it all actually makes (even without the help of Abt's Jungian interpretation, which I've only glanced at). What's also striking is that the Egyptians expended so much thought on the details of what happened in the netherworld – the commands of the creator god were apparently enough to explain goings-on in the realm of the living. Or can we squint and see the complexities of the underworld renewal as a dark reflection of the constant processes of renewal in the natural world?

Thanks again for the loan, [livejournal.com profile] kylaw!

Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung. Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat – A Quest for Immortality. Living Human Heritage Publications, Zurich, 2003.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
  • J. Gwyn Griffiths. [review of] Elkab I. Les monuments religieux a I'entrie de l'ouady Hellal by Phillipe Derchain. Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 59 (Aug., 1973), pp. 257-259. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3856146

    "In this region the desert landscape confronts huge formations of rock, and Derchain believes that a ritual attested in reliefs and inscriptions is that of welcome to the goddess who returns from Nubia in the manner of Hathor-Tefnut. Thus the central scene in the Ramesside chapel (pl. 33), fragmentary though it is, shows an object (now missing) being offered to Re-Harakhty; it is being presented by Nekhbet, who is followed by Onuris and Thoth. Derchain... argues that the missing object is a wedjat-eye... he suggests also that the scene is unique in representing the return of the 'distant goddess' who is here embodied in Nekhbet." Griffiths agrees that the object is a wedjat-eye, but thinks it, and not Nekhbet, represents the stray Eye of Re.

    "Derchain's notes are always instructive, and among the points of mythological interest are the assimilation of Nephthys and Tefnut (p. 38), an association of Nephthys and Thoth (p. 41), the designation of Cleopatra III as 'strong bull, female Horus' (p. 49) [...] On p. 63 Derchain seems intrigued by a mention of Sothis in a context where Nesert, the uraeus, is identified with Bastet. There is a good deal of evidence for an association of Sothis and Bastet and the eye of Re".

    [See the first comment about that "association between Nephthys and Thoth".]

  • Cauville, Sylvie. Le panthéon d'Edfou à Dendera. BIFAO 88 (1988), p. 7-23

    This includes an illustration of a snake-headed Nephthys and a lion-headed Isis, winged and brandishing ostrich feathers. The inscription calls her "Isis who protects her son with her wings".

    Wish I could get a higher-quality picture than this:

    leontocephale isis

  • Kákosy, László and Ahmed M. Moussa. A Horus Stela with Meret Goddesses. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, Bd. 25 (1998), pp. 143-159. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25152758

    This is about a stela from Thebes, from the first half of the first millennium BCE, held in the Museum of Seized Antiquities in Cairo. Unusually, even though it's got Horus on the crocodiles, it's got a prayer to Amun, traditional enemy of crocs, with some great lines: "Amun is the triumph. The name of Amun is more powerful than millions. More forceful is Amun-Re(?) than every amulet and your own eye." But of course what attracted my attention was this part of the spell: "Your mouths are sealed by Re, your gullets are blocked by Sakhmet. A voice of lamentation (is heard) from the temple of Neith, a loud wailing from the mouth of the Cat. The gods (say): 'what is it, what is it' ... Re, did you not hear the loud sound in the night on that bank of Nedit and the long silence among all the gods and all the goddesses... There is a voice of lamentation in the temple of Neith, a wailing, a wailing (in) the mouth of the Cat because of those (things) which Mag has committed." Mag or Mega is a crocodile, the son of Seth, often the target of spells like this. But who is the Cat?

    ETA: Links!

    I'm reverse-engineering Mesopotamian hit songs

    Maya Blue Paint Recipe Deciphered

    Scholars Race to Recover a Lost Kingdom on the Nile (Kush; June 19, 2007)

    6,000-Year-Old Temple with Possible Sacrificial Altars Discovered (Trypillian culture)

    Ancient 'Egyptian blue' pigment points to new telecommunications, security ink technology

    Unmasking the gods (28 February 2002; "the remains of a ritual costume worn by an Egyptian priest some 2,500 years ago")

    Tattoos: The Ancient and Mysterious History

    Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel

    Mysterious 'Spellbook' From Ancient Egypt Decoded

  • ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
    The most important part of this enormous book are the photos - especially those of the eponymous treasures being brought up by divers from Herakleion, Canopus, and Alexandria - but here are some notes from the text:
    • The gods' attributes suggest the early settlement of the Nile and the ancientness of their worship: "like the Bedouin, the Egyptian gods hold a staff, goddesses hold a reed; their crowns are made of rushes, often they wear nothing other than a few ostrich plumes or the horns of the animals that are holy to them."

    • Oddly, the Hathor crown worn by Isis is described as including a lunar disc, rather than a solar one. (p 105)

    • Herakleion, the sunken city, is named for Herakles, whose mythology included exploits in Egypt, Libya, and Ethiopia; one story had him killing the Egyptian tyrant Busiris, who sacrificed all strangers to Zeus. The truth of the tale was disputed amongst the ancients, but the human sacrifice of foreigners might have had a basis in fact: "Until the abolition of this practice in the sixth century BC, it happened that troublemakers were condemned to be burned alive at one of the numerous sanctuaries where a reproduction of the mummified corpse of Osiris at the point of resurrection was watched over and tended while being burned alive [sic - during the execution, presumably]. The fact of redness was for men, as for animals, a mark of their genetic kinship with Seth and Apopi. As a consequence, Greek pirates - blond or red-haired - who presented this mark underwent this death sentence, which was theologically based and ritualised." The king Busiris could be per-Osiris - one of the temples where this ritual was carried out.

    • From the fifth century BCE, Amun was identified with Zeus, Mut with Hera, and Khonsu with Herakles. The authors describe this as "disconcerting", since the deities have, "at first sight", nothing in common. The child Khonsu, mummified, shown as large as an adult but wearing a sidelock, is "Chons in Thebes Neferhotep"; as a falcon-headed man with the lunar disc for a hat he is "Horus (!), master of joy". "The god identified with Herakles [must have been] 'Chons the child', one of those specifically childlike aspects in which all Egyptian gods were doubled by a Harpokrates, a 'child Horus'", with Khonsu's version being recognisable by the hem-hem and nemes headdresses. The authors explain the identification of Herakles and Khonsu as stemming from their similar origins - the god Amun took the form of the pharaoh to impregnate the royal wife with the next, divine pharaoh, and Zeus took the form of Amphitryon to impregnate Alcmena with the demigod Herakles.

    • I found a couple of examples of Khonsu being given the epithet "Horus, master of joy", such as at Qasr el Aguz.

    • Two statues from Alexandria, a snake and an ibis, probably represent "gods that were particularly venerated by the Alexandrians": Agathodaimon and Thoth, "alias Hermes Trismegistos". The "good genie" Agathodaimon was worshipped from the city's founding by Alexander. "When a shrine was erected small snakes would appear and would then scatter through the city, where the Alexandrians would protect and honour them. The origin of this seems to be linked to the Egyptian serpent Schai, a very popular protector god [whose] partner goddess Renenutet, having been assimilated into Isis Thermoutis - Isis in the form of a uraeus - often appeared alongside Agathodaimon on reliefs." Which may also have contributed to an assimilation of Agathodaimon and Sarapis. (p 204)

    • In their statues etc the Ptolemies had themselves presented according to Egyptian artistic conventions, though occasional Greek details crop up to lend authenticity to the portrait. The first queen "to be represented in the round in a pharaonic style" was Arsinoe II. "His Majesty ordered her [Arsinoe II's] statue to be erected in all the temples - which was acceptable to their priests - because these intentions were known to the gods and her kind deeds to all men." - Mendes Stela (The "queen-wives" continued to be represented like throughout the dynasty, all with "impersonal but splendid" anatomy, much as women in Egyptian art had always been portrayed with "perfect shapes clad in a tight dress". (p 160) Conversely, Isis was represented in the form of a Ptolemaic queen (p 170). Arsinoe II "was especially considered as a notable earthly manifestation of Aphrodite" (and given the epithet "Zephyritis"), "took an active interest in the navy and maritime routes" and according to her cult was "adored" by admirals, sailors, and "indigenous oarsmen" (p 172).

    • In the Arsinoeion in Alexandria, "an engineer had planned to put in place an iron statue which was supposed to have floated in the air by virtue of a magnet"!

    • In one area, divers found the remains of nine "decapitated and mutilated sphinxes" - "the result of vigorous dry blows applied with blunt instruments. This was the normal treatment meted out by Christians to deprive the demons that the pagan gods embodied" of their senses and their ability to move. (I wonder: did this idea, that there were spirits in the statues, originate with the Christians or come from the Egyptian concept of gods inhabiting their representations?) (p 170)

    • From Isis' temple at Narmouthis (p 210):

      All mortals who live on the infinite earth,
      Thracians, Greeks and barbarians too,
      Utter your beautiful name, honoured by all,
      Each in his own tongue, each in his own country.
      The Syrians name you Astarte, Artemis, Nanaia,
      And the people of Lykia Leto, sovereign.
      The men of Thrace name you Mother of the Gods,
      The Greeks Hera, enthroned on high, or even Aphrodite,
      Hestia the benevolent, Rhea, or Demeter.
      But the Egyptians call you Thioui, because you, and you alone,
      Are all the goddesses that people know by other names.

      (Various sources give "The Unique" for Thioui.)
    ikhet_sekhmet: (the great tomcat)
    Right then. The moon and the sun are linked as the eyes of a god in various places in Egyptian myth - I'll stick a bunch of notes behind the cut - but if my rummagings are correct, how the right eye, the solar Eye of Re, the ferocious goddess, overlaps with the left eye, the lunar Eye of Horus, is this: Thoth brings them both back.

    I was familiar with two stories involving Thoth and an eye - the myth of the Distant Goddess, in which the Eye of Re decamps to Nubia in a huff, and Thoth (or Onuris, or Shu) is dispatched to get her back; and the healing of Horus' eye after Set's assault.

    What I didn't know is that there's also a myth in which Horus's eye wanders off and Thoth returns it to him:
    The eye of Horus sprang up as he fell on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, to protect itself against (or, free itself from) Set.
    Thot saw it on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse.
    The eye of Horus sprang up on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, and fell upon the wing of Thot on yonder side of the Winding Watercourse.
    O ye gods, ye who ferry over on the wing of Thot to yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, to the eastern side of heaven, to speak with Set about that eye of Horus, may N. ferry over with you on the wing of Thot to yonder side of the Winding Watercourse, to the eastern side of heaven, that he, N., may speak with Set about that eye of Horus.
    - Pyramid Texts 594-596
    It'd make a great animated cartoon - Horus' eye either leaping out of his face (or perhaps off Set's forehead) and Thoth spotting it in time to catch it and fly it back to its owner. (Hmmm. I wonder if this is an image of the changeable moon travelling through the sky.)

    Various other bits of the PT touch on the same story. Patrick Boylan discusses all this in a footnote:
    "The legend of the flight and return of the eye is obviously similar in many respects to the legends of the Destroying Eye of Re, of the angry eye which becomes the serpent on the diadem of the sun-god, of Onuris who fetched the divine lioness from the eastern desert, and of Hathor of Byblos. All these legends are intricately interwoven - so much so, indeed, that it is often difficult to decide to which of them a particular feature or motif primitively belongs. Thoth is certainly associated primitively with the astral legend of the moon-eye that vanished and was found again. The primitive astral myth contains no suggestion of an angry eye of Horus. Thoth's function as pacifier of the eye is connected with the more reflective legends of the Eye as Serpent on the crown of Horus (in which Sechmet appears as the Eye in her form nsr.t, and Thoth is the shtp nsr.t). (p 32, fn 1)
    It's a bit slack to just quote chunks of Boylan, but I'm knackered and he explains it so simply:
    "The name of [Onuris] Ini hri.t, 'He who brings the one who was far away', refers probably to the bringing to Egypt from the mountain lands of the eastern deserts of a goddess in leonine form who was forced or induced to leave her desert home by an ancient battle-god in lion or falcon form. This ancient god was Horus the warrior-god who, because he brought to Egypt the stranger goddess, received the epithet Ini hri.t (Onuris) - 'He that fetches her that was far away'. Later this Hri.t came to be identified with the wd3.t and Ini hri.t was explained as 'He that brings the Eye that was far away'. Thus, the name of Onuris came to be written (as Thoth's could be, and sometimes was, written) as a deity carrying the wd3.t. (p 35)
    And as a footnote to that lot:
    "In some cases, of course, Thoth brings back to Horus (or Re) the right eye, or the Sun. This activity seems to be secondary or borrowed in the legends of the sun-god Re: it is based on his more primitive activity in connection with the moon." (p 35 fn 1)
    So there you go - multiple versions of basically the same story, the eye leaving and being returned, with slippage between just which eye is doing the round trip.

    More notes )


    Andrews, Carol. "The Boar, the Ram-Headed Crocodile and the Lunar Fly". in Studies in Egyptian Antiquities: A Tribute to T.G.H. James (Occasional paper 123). London, British Museum, 1999. pp. 79 - 81.

    Boylan, Patrick. Thoth, the Hermes of Egypt. Chicago, Ares Publishers, 1987. (A reprint of this, I believe.)

    Darnell, J. C. 1997. The Apotropaic Goddess in the Eye. Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur 24, pp 35-48.

    Troy, Lana. "Mut Enthroned". in van Dijk, J. (ed.), Essays on Ancient Egypt in Honour of Herman te Velde, Groningen, 1997, pp.301-315.

    Willems, Harco. The coffin of Heqata (Cairo JdE 36418): a case study of Egyptian funerary culture of the early Middle Kingdom. Leuven, Uitgeverij Peeters en Departement Oriëntalistiek, 1996.
    ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
    "In order to understand the place of the moon in the cosmos, it should be remembered that the Egyptians conceived of the sky as a gigantic face which, like the human face, has two eyes. These are the sun and the moon, the right and left eye respectively. In a hymn we read: 'both thy eyes move in a circle, day and night; thy right eye is the sun-disc, thy left is the moon.'" (p 115)

    "Just as a sun-eye is mentioned in connection with Re, so is mention made of a moon-eye. In itself the sun-eye is constant. The moon-eye continually changes its shape. This fact has given rise to the forming of mythical conceptions about the wounding of the eye in which Thoth plays a prominent role." (p 117)

    In the Pyramid Texts, Horus and Seth battle; Horus damages Seth's testicles and Seth destroys Horus' eye. Thoth pacifies both combatants and heals their wounds. Bleeker suggests this is a "moon-myth": "It was only natural that this metamorphosis [the phases of the moon] be conceived of as a mutilation. Who is better able to heal this wound than the moon-good himself?... he makes the eye healthy and full again." (p 127) Seth makes off with Horus' eye, but Thoth retrieves it, saying: "I have returned from searching for the Horus-eye, I have brought it back." He makes the eye "full", that is, complete and intact: this is the wd3t-eye, "the symbol of divine life which can overcome death." (p 125) This is of course analogous to Thoth's retrieval of the sun-eye from a foreign land in the myth of the Distant Goddess.

    Bleeker, C.J. Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion. Leiden, Brill, 1973.


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