ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Over in Tumblr, my strange little hobby is trying to identify gods and demons in photos from Egypt. When the name is visible in hieroglyphs, of course, it's a pushover. At other times, I can only make an educated guess from other clues, because the iconography of many deities overlaps: Isis and Hathor; Amun and Khnum; Re and Ra-Horakhty; and the many lioness goddesses can look identical. I'm far less well up on the gods of the Levant, Phoenicia and Syria and Canaan and all that, but the problem of telling them apart seems to be even more pronounced, even for the experts. As Richard D. Barnett writes, "we have lost the keys for interpreting many of the bewildering variety of divine types".

So Barnett only "ventured to identify" one particular form of Phoenician goddess of the Iron Age with Anat (aka 'Anath): "a young girl, dressed in a long Egyptian woman's garment who wears either the great Egyptian triple version of the 'atef crown, called hm hm ('terrible'), or the 'atef crown on horns between two uraeus snakes". She also "wears an Isis-girdle, holds a shield and harpe and sometimes has a long dagger (or daggers) stuck in her girdle at her waist." Barnett describes this goddess as "partially transvestite": not only is she armed, but the hm hm crown is more usually seen on male gods, such as Osiris, Harpocrates, and Ba'al. This is a good match for the Anat of the Ba'al cycle, ready to avenge her brother's death, and representations of Anat from New Kingdom Egypt show her brandishing shield and weapons, as Barnett points out. (I'd add that it matches Papyrus Chester Beatty VII, in which Anat is described as "a woman acting as a warrior, clad as men and girt as women".) However, 'Ashtart (aka Astarte) was similarly depicted in Egypt: "it is clear that she and 'Anath often coalesced".

Barnett's goal is to trace the history of representations of Anat. The Iron Age in Phoenicia, 1200-500 BCE, roughly corresponds with the middle of the New Kingdom in Egypt through to the middle of the Late Period. Barnett writes that "the identification of Isis-Hathor with the Lady of Byblos goes back to the Middle Kingdom" and "the concept of 'Anath and 'Ashtart as war-goddesses is an invention of the Egyptian New Kingdom, and was not known in Phoenicia till the Iron Age." (There may be indications of it as early as the Hyksos period, however.) I guess this is a pretty good indication of the cultural exchange going on between Egypt and the Levant - iconography and gods being traded along with everything else. (Ugarit, however, predates the Iron Age, and 'Anat is pretty bloody warlike in the literature found there!)

It's also possible that 'Anath is represented in a different way - wearing Isis/Hathor's sun-and-horns headdress, flanking a god who could be Ba'al or Reshep, with a goat standing on its hindlegs on his other side. She embraces him (the god, not the goat). Apparently Anat and Hathor were identified with one another in second millennium BCE Syria. Barnett thinks it's more likely this goddess is 'Astarte. But he cautions that "Their roles and representations are in fact still at present very hard to distinguish. The distinction between the representation of the two sister goddesses is something of a mystery, which we are not yet in a position to unravel." Has it been unravelled a bit since 1978? Further investigation is indicated.

Barnett, Richard D. The Earliest Representation of 'Anath. Eretz-Israel 14 1978, pp 28-31.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Brief notes from Archaeological Perspectives on the Transmission and Transformation of Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean.

In "Minoan Asherah", Stephanie Budin seeks to explain the form of the Judean Pillar Figure*, goddess figurines holding their breasts and with "a pillar-shaped, free-standing base". She argues that these combine features from Levantine figurines, which hold their breasts, and Cypriot figurines, which wear a "hoop-skirt". The result is an alternative to "the traditional Levantine female divine iconography... The pillar-shaped based covers, hides, or otherwise deletes the most consistently significant attribute of Levantine female iconography: the prominent display of the genitalia." Judean prudishness - or perhaps the figurines represent Asherah, "with a base that would not only emphasise her tree- or pillar-like associations, but would clearly render her distinct from the more erotic Ištars and Aštarôth of the surrounding regions." (Paul Butler has very kindly made his drawings for this chapter available online.)

In "The worship of Anat and Astarte in Cypriot Iron Age sanctuaries", Anja Ulbrich writes: "The evidence for the worship of Astarte... shows her as a multi-faceted deity, who includes the functions of war- and city-goddess as well as a goddess of female sexuality, love and fertility. Anat is also "multi-faceted", but her primary role in Ugaritic myth is as goddess of war, "whose sexual activity is doubtful and elusive... This connects her strongly with the virgin Greek Athena, with whom, in the inscriptions from Iron Age Cyprus, Anat is invariably equated." A bilingual inscription is dedicated to "Anat, fortress of the living" in Phoenician, and "Athena Soteria Nike" in Greek.

Ulbrich notes that coins from the Cypriot city of Lapithos show Athena with her Corinthian helmet on one side, and on the other, "a female head en face with a helmet with cow-ears and bovine horns with wings attached to them... this iconography points to prototypes from the Near East, where horned helmets, wings and arms" appear in depictions of war-goddesses (usually identified as Ishtar - the Mesopotamian equivalent of Astarte). This means that Canaanite goddesses with horns, or horned helmets, could be either Anat or Astarte, as could the goddess on these Cypriot coins. (Only Anat is described as having wings in the texts, which can help with her identification.) Both Anat and Astarte had sanctuaries on Cyprus, but it's not known if they were separate sanctuaries or those of a pre-existing goddess. "Astarte-figurines, depicting naked females with prominently rendered breasts and pubis, who partly touch their genitalia" were introduced from Phoenicia and were used as votives.

Hathor was worshipped in Phoenicia, but, outside Egypt, only on Cyprus were large Hathor-capitals found, made from local limestone - like this one at the Met.

* Not to be confused with the Pillar Figure of Judea, obvs.
Clarke, Joanne (ed). Archaeological Perspectives on the Transmission and Transformation of Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean. Council for British Research in the Levant and Oxbow Books, Oxford, 2005.

ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Time to write up my notes from this book so I can return it to [livejournal.com profile] kylaw!

Written to accompany the travelling exhibition "The Quest for Immortality – Treasures of Ancient Egypt", this book takes the unusual approach of juxtaposing Egyptologist Erik Hornung's description of the Amduat with Jungian analyst Theodor Abt's exploration of its meaning for modern, and perhaps ancient, spirituality and psychology. Abt remarks that the sun god's journey through the "nightworld, that is also the world of the deceased... can also be seen as a symbolic representation of an inner psychic process of transformation and renewal." Not surprisingly, this fits well with the Wiccan and Neo-Pagan ideas about the Dying God's trip to the netherworld and back, which takes place not during the night but during a different natural cycle – the seasons of the year.

The Amduat, or "What is in the Netherworld", first appears in the early New Kingdom – "the first illustrated book in history", as Hornung puts it, "lavishly illustrated throughout" with scenes from the sun's journey through the twelve hours of the night. Part or all of the book appears in various arrangements in the tombs of NK pharaohs. In the late 21st Dynasty, the book appears in the tombs of the Theban priests of Amun, and is written on coffins and papyri rather than in tombs. It appears again in royal tombs of the 22nd and 26th Dynasties, and on royal and non-royal sarcophagi of the 30th Dynasty and the early Ptolemaic period. (There's also short, un-illustrated version – Hornung calls it a "quick guide".)

The first hall of the tomb of Tuthmosis III includes a catalogue of 741 deities from the Amduat; in total, there are 908 "beings" in the book, including those which are punished and damned. (The Egyptians were not great followers of the principle Non sunt multiplicanda entia sine necessitate.)

Each of the twelve hours shows the sun-god in his barque, attended by various deities. In the first hour, the sun passes through the (unrepresented) first gate, "Which Swallows All", which is then "'sealed' to prevent any evil forces from entering' (or exiting, I wonder?) this "intermediate realm" between the world of the living and the netherworld proper. The sun god travels in the form of a ba-soul; hence his ram's head. He's accompanied by two forms of the goddess Ma'at (as Abt remarks, it's "encouraging and consoling" that ma'at is present in the netherworld too - or, I wonder, does the creator god bring ma'at with him?) and welcomed joyfully by nine baboons (familiar from the tomb of Tutankhamun). This hour also introduces the twelve goddess of the hours of the night, which Abt calls "aspects of the goddess Hathor" – given names like "She who smashes the brows of her foes", "She who protects her Eye" and "She who rages", they certainly could be – and twelve ureai, whose fiery breath will protect the sun god from his enemies.

In the second hour (called Wernes), the solar barque is accompanied by four more boats, one of which carries the moon. "Since the moon is meant to replace the sun during the night," says Hornung, "she is not normally present in the netherworld; but by going through phases, disappearing and becoming full again, is an important symbol not only of rejuvenation for the dead but also of the circular regeneration in time. Moreover, she is the left eye of the Sungod, as Hathor [whose symbol is carried in the next boat] is his right eye."

The "abundant and well-watered" second hour and third hour (called Water of Osiris) are followed by the arid fourth hour (Rosetau), "the land of Sokar, who is upon his sand". Hornung characterises the netherworld falcon-god Sokar as "an aspect of Osiris". Sokar-land is filled with "impenetrable darkness", but if you could see it, it would look remarkably like a video game: there are "serpent monsters, some with several heads, or with legs and wings to emphasize their ability to move around quickly", as well as "a zigzag path" blocked by doors named "knife" and "full of 'fire from the mouth of Isis'". The barque, which has turned into a fire-breathing amphisbaena in order to light the way, has to be towed across the sand. The "night sun", which "has finally become the dark sun", can't wake the dead with his light – but they can hear his voice, the only sound in the darkness. The hour is broken up into short scenes, such as Thoth and Sokar healing the solar eye.

In the fifth hour, we're still in Sokar-land. At the centre of the top register is Osiris' burial mound, with Khepri emerging from it in scarab form (like every other being in this register, it's helping pull the barque along!). At the centre of the bottom register is the double-headed sphinx god of the earth, Aker; inside Aker is Sokar in a cavern, lifting the wings of a triple-headed "multicoloured serpent" which is the sun god in another form. At the very bottom of the hour is the Lake of Fire – which punishes sinners, but provides cool water for the "blessed dead". (Dunno who the head in the centre of the middle register is, though.)

At the "utmost depth" of the sixth hour (Arrival That Gives the Right Way), "Re as Ba-soul and Osiris as his corpse" are reunited, "and thus the light of the sun is rekindled". Re is reunited with both of his eyes (shown above Osiris in lion form, behind whom sits Isis-Tait). A baboon-headed Thoth offers himself in ibis form to a goddess who holds the eyes behind her back. The gods Nun and Sobek (with Set-ears?) appear in this watery hour, representing the primeval ocean, "out of which the Sungod has emerged at the beginning of time and is now renewed again." At the right of the middle register can be seen a five-headed snake protecting the sun god's corpse, a scarab on his head.

In the next exciting installment: the battle with Apophis!

Theodor Abt and Erik Hornung. Knowledge for the Afterlife: The Egyptian Amduat – A Quest for Immortality. Living Human Heritage Publications, Zurich, 2003.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
Dimitri Meeks points out that since the horse was introduced into Egypt from the Near East, it makes sense that horse-riding deities in Egypt are also from the Near East. The most prominent rider is Astarte, who's actually better known from Egyptian examples than from Near Eastern ones. He highlights three in particular:
  • Hibis, where Astarte and Reshep are part of the pantheon of Heracleopolis;
  • Edfu, where a lion-headed Astarte drives a chariot drawn by four horses - Meeks says she is "clearly identified with the goddess Sekhmet";
  • Tod, where Astarte is shown in the form of Hathor and called "the one who controls the horse".
Meeks outlines the connections between these goddesses, royalty, and royal victory in battle - so, for example, at Denderah Hathor is given the title "mistress of royalty and mistress of horses".

Other gods were also horse-riders or charioteers, such as Horus the Saviour, shown in cippi riding a chariot drawn by griffins; and Thoth, called "master of horses" in a Ramesside inscription. Also at Tod, Raettawy is called "valiant in horseback battle".

ETA: Bit more on Sekhmet and royalty. Janet H. Johnson, reviewing Philippe Germond's Sekhmet et la Protection du Monde, discusses Sekhmet's dual character as destroyer and protector, with her violent rage "channeled into annihilating the enemies of the sun-god"; similarly, "the wrath of the king against his enemies was the transferred destructive wrath of Sekhmet being used to maintain Ma'at." It was the king's job, at the New Year's festivities, to make sure Sekhmet was pacified and her anger therefore safely aimed in the right direction.

When it came to ordinary folks struck by the goddess' ire in the form of sickness, Germond suggests, doctors worked alongside her appeasing w'b-priest. OTOH, in Les Pretres-Ouab De Sekhmet Et Les Conjurateurs De Serket, Frédérique von Känel argues that the w'b-priests were themselves medical doctors; for example, in the Papyrus Ebers, the w'b-priest is described taking the patients pulse.

Clagett, Marshall. Les Pretres-Ouab De Sekhmet Et Les Conjurateurs De Serket by Frédérique von Känel [review]. Isis 76(4) Dec 1985 pp 628-629.

Johnson, Janet H. Sekhmet et la protection du monde by Philippe Germond [review]. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 104(2) Apr-Jun 1984, pp. 361-362.

Meeks, Dimitri. "L’introduction du cheval en Égypte et son insertion dans les croyances religieuses". in Gardeisen, Armelle (ed). Les Équidés dans le monde Méditerranéen Antique (Actes du colloque organisé par l’École française d’Athènes, le Centre Camille Jullian, et l’UMR 5140 du CNRS, Athènes, 26-28 Novembre 2003). Monographies d’Archéologie Méditerranéenne Occasional Publications 1, 2005, pp 51-59.

CT 331

Feb. 29th, 2012 05:41 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Spell 331 of the Coffin Texts is awesome. (I found my way to it via a discussion in The Coffin of Heqata.) The deceased identifies him or herself with Hathor, and gives us one of those glorious bursts of self-praise: she is "the Primeval, the Lady of All", from whom all the others gods flee (Cf the Exaltation of Inanna: "O my lady, the Anunna, the great gods, fluttering like bats fly off from before you to the clefts"). She calls herself "that Eye of Horus, the female messenger of the Sole Lord", and identifies herself with the Eye of Atum or Re, who set out to find and return Shu and Tefnut to their father. She also identifies herself with the goddesses Shesmetet and Wadjet.

Looks as though Willems translates CT 331 differently to Faulkner - for example, compare respectively "She claims to have the heart of a lion - a reference to the Destruction de Hommes? - and to have the lips of an executioner" and "my heart is the lion-god, my lips are the [sytyw]" ("the meaning of this last word is not known"). (Faulkner notes that one version has "my heart is the lion-god(s)" - Shu and Tefnut?)

Hathor remarks, "I have given my tears", which Willem interprets as a reference to the myth spelled out in Papyrus Bremner-Rhind XXVII,1-3, in which the Eye returns with Shu and Tefnut, "only to discover that Atum had made a new Eye... Distressed by this discovery, the eye wept (rmi), and humanity (rmt) originated in its tears." So Hathor is claiming to have created the human race.

(This self-praise continues in CT 332, but without explicit reference to the Eyes. There's a lot of Hathoric sky and light imagery, and an intriguing reference: "I am the third one, mistress of brightness, who guides the great ones who are languid on the paths of the wakeful." Willems suggests this Third One is Sothis.)

As Willems points out, here Hathor is the sun-god's protector and supporter, as befits his Eye. Discussing the prominent role of eyes in Egyptian myth, he remarks, 'First and foremost, there is the myth about the Eye of Horus, which was torn out by Seth but restored later by Thoth... Via the connection with Thoth, but also as the Left Eye of Horus, it was identified with the moon... but because Horus was sometimes interpreted as a solar deity, the 'Eye of Horus' could equally well be the sun." Then there's the myth of the Distant Goddess, in which the sun-god's eye departs for Nubia, and is brought back by another deity. Different versions of the myth involve different sun-gods, different Eyes of Re such as Hathor, Tefnut, and Wepset, and, as the god who brings her home, Onuris ("who brings back the distant one"), Shu, Thoth, or "forms of Horus". (And there's one where "a Hathor-like goddess went into the Libyan desert". Blimey.) Since the sun god can appear as Horus, Willem remarks, "it is not surprising that there was a degree of interference between the myth complexes concerning the Eye of Horus and the Onuris legend."

So, as Willems sees it, this spell combines the various eye myths, allowing the person reciting it to identify "with the solar eye in as many capacities as possible". (p 352)
ikhet_sekhmet: (lioness)
A footnote in Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven gives a list of "almost forty [Egyptian] goddesses with leonine associations". Using the footnote's spelling, they are:

Matit ("The Dismemberer")
Mehit ("The Seizer")
Pakhet ("The Mangler")
the lioness of Athribis

Blimey, I've never even heard of some of those! What a find! Hmm, I count 34, and I think some of those might be the same goddess with different names. OTOH, there's one missing - Henut-Mestjet or Mestjet (known from just one stela). ETA: And another - the goddess Ai!

("Leonine associations" is a bit vague. Many of these goddesses are routinely represented as a lioness-headed woman - but what's the connection for the others?)

I'll add more stuff to this posting as I go along:
  • Djedet is "a protective goddess" in The Book of Traversing Eternity, although not in a liony way.

  • Geraldine Pinch notes that "Hathor, Lady of Mefkat... appears in lioness-headed form on a stela from Serabit el-Khadim."

  • Another addition: Seret is attested by an inscription on a 5th Dynasty statue. (Note to self: Le Role et le Sens p 386; Reallexikon der Religionsgeschichte p 199, Fisher 200.932 2 )

  • Here's Matit in the Lexikon. She was worshipped alongside the falcon deity Anty at Deir el Gebrawi in the Twelfth Nome of Upper Egypt. Here she is in Constant de Wit's Le Role Et Le Sens Du Lion Dans Legypte Ancienne. She had a male counterpart, the god Mati.

  • Wepset appears in the Coffin Texts (CT I, 376/7a-380/1a), in which fire is given "several different names, including Wepset and w3w3.t-flame." (Willems 1996.) She is the Eye of the Sun and the Distant Goddess ("Wawat" is Lower Nubia). "Shu is regularly identified with Onuris" and in this spell Shu is said to "extinguish the flame, to cool Wepset and extinguish the w3w3.t-flame which dispels the mourning of the gods." Willems also notes that a female w3w3.t-flame, personifying "the burning poison in a person's body" is cooled "in a magical text on the Socle Béhague (h25-26)". (p 317)

  • Seems like a reasonable place to throw in these snippets from The Life of Meresamun: "The multiple flexible strands of the menat are represented as a broad collar with falcon terminals around the neck of a female deity, most commonly Hathor but sometimes also Isis or the feline-form goddesses Tefnut, Sekhmet, Menhit, and Bastet." (p 37) "Among deities, Hathor, Mut, Sekhmet, and Tefnut are shown wearing them and, for unknown reasons, the menat was the characteristic emblem of the male god Khonsu." (p 39) Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven notes that lioness-headed goddesses "are known in relief as early as the Old Kingdom and in three dimensions from the New Kingdom." (p 138)

  • A statue of Prince Hetep-Seshat and his missus lists amongst his titles "prophet of Khentichemi [Khenti-kheti?], prophet of Banebdjedet, prophet of Horus and Seth... prophet of Bastet, prophet of Shesemtet." He was a busy lad.

  • Aperet-Isis formed a triad at Akhmim with Min and Kolanthes. (ETA: Aha! Henadology reports that Arepet-Isis is actually an epithet of Repyt.)

  • Isis was depicted with a lioness head on Sidonian amulets.

Capel, Anne K. and Glenn E. Markoe. Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: women in ancient Egypt. New York, Hudson Hills Press in association with Cincinnati Art Museum, 1996.

Pinch, Geraldine. Votive Offerings to Hathor. Oxford, Griffith Institute, 1993.

Teeter, Emily and Janet H. Johnson (eds). The Life of Meresamun : a temple singer in ancient Egypt. Chicago, Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2009.

Willems, Harco. The Coffin of Heqata (Cairo JdE 36418) (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta 70). Peeters Publishers and Department of Oriental Studies, Leuven, Belgium, 1996.


Mar. 29th, 2010 02:24 pm
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
The "Holy One" - serious article from a neo-Pagan journal about the identity of the goddess Qudshu; good pictures and bibliography.

The Edfu Project - "a freely accessible online library of monographs, articles, and manuscripts on material about the Edfu district".

The Dawn of Civilization: Writing, Urban Life, and Warfare - December 2009 Discover magazine article about Tell Brak in Syria. Also from the magazine: World's First Grain Silos Discovered at Dhra in Jordan, and Oldest Musical Instrument Found, a bone flute from Hohle Fels. And lots more in the Preghistoric Culture section.

Maat-Ka-Re Hatshepsut includes maps, photos and info from the maintainer's visits to Egyptian sites, including Speos Artemidos and the Temple of Mut.

ETA: Computers unlock more secrets of the mysterious Indus Valley script, University of Washington News, August 2009

Finally, via [livejournal.com profile] tysolna:

ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
On to Hathor and the other sun-eyes, Sekhmet and Tefnet.

Hathor, writes Bleeker, has an "inflammable temperament", which can be calmed by the sound of the sistrum (p 59-60) - possibly imitating the sound of the wind in the reeds in the wild cow's marshy home - and by dancing and general festivity - music, acrobats, drinking, etc. At Edfu one text describes the gods playing the sistrum and the goddesses dancing "to dispel her bad temper". (p 57) At Deir el-Bahri there's "a representation of a festive procession held on New Year's day in which Libians (sic) demonstrate their famous art of dancing... to commemorate the arrival from Nubia of Tefnet". (p 56)

Like Tefnut, Hathor is a sun-eye and an angry goddess who needs pacifying. "... Hathor was thought to be identical with Wpš, 'the beautiful shape of Tefnet', or in other words the appearance of he goddess whose rage has cooled down and who is benevolent." (p 68) A calendar makes the link between the two goddesses explicit, with Hathor's festival on 19-21 Tybi said to celebrate her return from Bwgm, the foreign land from which Thoth brought Tefnut home. (p 91)

Hathor is "the mistress of fear" (p 83) of whom it was said, "Hathor is as wrathful as Sechmet and as joyful as Bast." (p 70)

Right, that'll do for now. More in a bit...

Bleeker, C.J. Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion. Leiden, Brill, 1973.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Now, my particular interest in Hathor is where she intersects with Sekhmet and Tefnut, as the sun-eye, and as a wrathful goddess who needs to be appeased. So these notes will reflect that.

But first, some other goddesses entirely:

Bleeker points out that "as cow-goddess, Hathor does not represent the peaceful domesticated animal, but the wild cow that lived in the originally marshy area of the Delta" - a symbol of "fertile, abundant life" (p 30). This made my ears prick up, because Enheduanna addresses Inanna as "impetuous wild cow". Hathor's titles include "monarch of the sky" or "queen of the heavens", which recalls Ishtar's title "Queen of Heaven", and Bleeker even describes her multifaceted nature as "paradoxical" (p 102), recalling similar characterisations of Inanna/Ishtar as a "paradox" (eg by Rivkah Harris). I'm not clear, though, on how similar the Egyptian pt and the Mesopotamian an or anu really are - exactly where the gods and the afterlife were located in Egyptian thought seems to be more complicated than just "heaven". Nor am I clear on whether Inanna the wild cow is a symbol of fertility or dangerousness (or both). Research is indicated.

ETA: Discussing Thoth, Bleeker suggests it's in the nature of deities to be inconsistent - "his behaviour is occasionally contrary to what human rationality and ethics would expect." (p 132)

As mistress of the western desert, Hathor was associated with goddesses such as Meretseger, "she who loves silence". Bleeker says this is "a characteristic name for a death-goddess, for the realm of the dead is a aphonous land where silence reigns, where the dead find peace and quiet." (pp 42-43)

Bleeker, C.J. Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion. Leiden, Brill, 1973.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
I have here Cauville's translation into French of the text on the walls of Hathor's sanctuary at Dendera. I've been mucking about trying to translate some of it into English, without doing a better job than a translation already available online: Invocation of the Goddess Hwt-Hrt. The same site also has translations from Germond's Sekhmet et sa Protection du Monde: Invocations and Rituals of Sekhmet.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Once my attention was caught by a guide leading his group through the [British Museum's] Egyptian hall... He made the bemused, elderly Americans pass and repass in front of Sekhmet, an aspect of Hat-hor, goddess of love and beauty - lion-headed, wrathful, manifesting the destructive potential of love. He urged them to step across the goddess's line of vision: "The Egyptians thought she'd curse you, but she can't. Step right up to her..." It wasn't an official museum tour, but still...
- Ahdaf Soueif, writing in The Guardian
A detail John Baines points out in One God Or Many?: in the Book of the Dead of Hunefer, Nut is depicted with a lioness' head (she's sixth from the left in the row of gods at the top) but Tefnut is shown with a woman's head. (In the Book of the Dead of Any, it's the other way around.) [ETA: I wonder if it's just a hieroglyphic typo!]

Here's a terrific photo of Ra as the Cat of Heliopolis doing away with Apep. Great facial expressions on both of them. :)

A 1987 NYT article describes an unusual miniature idol of Sekhmet from Carthage.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
So many photocopies and PDFs... I'm so much better at collecting them than I am at reading them, or posting about them. In this posting I want to gather together a whole lot of notes about the Egyptian goddess Bast or Bastet; when I've finished rummaging through all the research I've accumulated, I'll post again with a summary.

This way to the cumulative note-taking... )And some links:

Bastet, the cat - a report from excavations at Tel Basta, February 2009

Aegis of Sekhmet or Bastet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

ETA: lots of stuff in the Bastet tag in my Tumblr!

Ambers, Janet et al. A new look at an old cat: a technical investigation of the Gayer-Anderson cat. British Museum Technical Research Bulletin 2 2008.
Arnold, Dorothea. An Egyptian Bestiary. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, New Series 52(4) spring, 1995), pp. 1+7-64.
Cartwright, Harry W. The Iconography of Certain Egyptian Divinities as Illustrated by the Collections in Haskell Oriental Museum. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 45(3) April 1929 pp. 179-196.
Review by Henry George Fischer of Tell Basta by Labib Habachi. American Journal of Archaeology 62(3) July 1958, pp. 330-333.
Pinch, Geraldine. Egyptian Mythology: a guide to the gods, goddesses, and traditions of ancient Egypt. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Raffaele, Francesco. An unpublished Early Dynastic stone vessel fragment with incised inscription naming the goddess Bastet. Cahiers Caribéens d'Egyptologie , 7-8, 2005.
Schorsch, Deborah and James H. Frantza. A Tale of Two Kitties. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, winter 1997/1998, pp 16-29.
Scott, Nora E. The Cat of Bastet. Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin ns 17(1) summer 1958, pp 1-7.
Spalinger, Anthony J. "Social and Religious Implications of the New Military System". in War in Ancient Egypt: the New Kingdom. Malden, MA; Oxford, Blackwell, 2005.
Te Velde, H. "The Cat as sacred animal of the goddess Mut." In M. Heerma van Voss et al (eds). Studies in Egyptian Religion. Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1982.
- Some Remarks on the Structure of Egyptian Divine Triads. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 57, August 1971, pp 80-86.
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Hathor was a sky goddess - hence her name, "House of Horus". Watterson writes, "The Egyptians thought of her as a gigantic cow which straddled the earth, her legs marking the four cardinal points. Between her horns she carried the sun's disk; her belly was the sky, her hide and udders were the stars and planets." (p 113)

The Narmer Palette is the earliest known representation of Hathor, and was probably an offering for Hathor's shrine. Watterson suggests the part-human, part-bovine face, uniquely shown from the front, was originally the goddess' fetish, and becamne stylised as her Bat symbol - the sistrum, Hathor's sacred rattle, could take this shape. Her son Ihy holds one.

The Greeks equated Hathor with Aphrodite. She "was especially reversed by women." Wine and beer, and music and dance, were important in her rituals; "the king himself sang and danced before the goddess". (p 118) Along with Bes and Ta-weret, she was concerned with childbirth, and also suckled the king. The Seven Hathors, who foretold the fates of newborn children, appear in The Tale of the Two Brothers and The Doomed Prince.

In the afterlife, Hathor, "Lady of the Sycamore", lived in a sycamore tree, which provided protection, food, and drink to the deceased. During the 18th Dynasty, she was merged with another cow goddess, Mehet-weret, becoming the patroness of the Theban necropolis. She was the goddess of foreign lands, and was worshipped at a mine in Sinai as "The Lady of Turquoise".

Denderah, site of Hathor's most important temple, takes its name from the Egyptian Ta-neteret, "the goddess". Her statue went in procession each year for a sacred marriage to Horus of Edfu. She was identified with local goddess in many towns, for example with Mut at Thebes, and with Wadjet at Buto; she was so often identified with Isis that they'd basically fused by the Late Period.
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Shafer discusses the earliest development of Egyptian religion. It's not clear when Egyptian gods took on human attributes - whether there was a stage in which the gods were objects and animals. "Yet what appears significant," he argues, "is not the form the concept of the divine took but the fact that the concept could be manifest in an image. For even when the power/force was represented as an animal, it was possible that the believer also attributed to it human behaviours and traits." For example, Predynastic gods are often shown as animals, but acting like human beings. Later, human and animal seem to fuse - literally in the case of the familiar animal-headed human figures. (p 13-15)

The importance of sacred animals greatly increased in the Late Period. As Shafer points out, animals were more accessible than statues hidden away in temples. "For worshippers, the animals' relation to deities was comparable to that of living and deceased human intermediaries." (p 196-7)

"In Egypt, the notion of evil overlapped to a great extent with that of disorder." (p 163) This makes sense to me, considering the violence, starvation, and general chaos of the Intermediate Periods. But of course, as Shafer points out, the pharaoh had a vested interest in paralleling his or her own rule with cosmic order.

In a Coffin Text of the Middle Kingdom, the creator god assigns the blame for evil on human beings and not on the gods: "I made every man like his fellow. I did not ordain that they do wrong." Literally: that they engage in izfet (itft?), disorder), the chaos outside creation, which is where unworthy souls are thrown after judgment. (p 128-9, 163)

Where does "natural evil" come from, then? Elswhere Shafer discusses the Instruction of Amenemope from the New Kingdom, which emphasises that everything happens because the gods ordained it. "… although the gods created order and uphold it, they are free to act by their own lights and may appear to be capricious… The morality of these instruction texts focusses as much on accepting and enduring events as on making them happen." (p 194-5) Shafer argues that in polytheism, evil has two possible sources, human wrongdoing and the "tension and disorder" within the pantheon - hence "the existence of evil is not deeply problematic because nothing is truly perfect (p 186-7).

One sharp difference between Egyptian and Mesopotamian religion is that, in Egypt, personal devotion to a particular god was rare (p 174), while in Mesopotamia everyone had a "personal god". OTOH, "Thousands of votive offerings have been found at shrines of the goddess Hathor, the patroness of women." Some of these were probably prayers for fertility (p 180-1).
Shafer, Byron E. (ed). Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 2001.
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This book's available at Google Books!

Shafer opens by describing the Egyptian's complicated and sophisticated concept of the divine, including the "identifications and interrelations" between the various gods. "It is not possible simply to label one deity a god of one thing and another the god of something else." (p 7) Egyptian religious ideas were "fluid", always evolving, with no single "sacred book" (p 12). (Having grown up with kid's books which always gave the Heliopolitan cosmogony - that is, Osiris' family tree - I've been surprised to learn how many different creation stories they Egyptians had.)

Similarly, their gods were more fluid in their roles than the gods of Greece and Rome (p 23). For example, Set was a fratricide, Re's ally against Apophis, Horus's enemy, and then Horus's former enemy; he was esteemed in the Early Dynastic Period, and again in Ramesside Period (p 40-1), representing "the brute force and destructiveness that exist within creation", rather than the uncreated chaos outside it; but in the first millenium BCE Seth began to be seen as an enemy (p 124).

The interrelationships between gods were also complex. Shafer mentions familiar triads like Amun, Mut, and Khonsu at Thebes, but also notes that Hathor of Denderah was the consort of Horus of Edfu, even though each god "inhabited" their own temple (p 41).

A few quick notes. Seshat was Thoth's consort, and they were portrayed together in coronation scenes (p 42). Ma'at, unlike any of the gods other than the Aten, was "tolerated" thoughout the Amarna period (p 82). There are two records from the New Kingdom in which Hathor appeared to people in their dreams (p 172), one of which inspired the location of a man's tomb (p 185).

More notes to come, on sacred animals, personal piety, and theodicy.
Shafer, Byron E. (ed). Religion in Ancient Egypt: Gods, Myths, and Personal Practice. Cornell University Press, Ithaca NY, 2001.
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Here's that cat / lioness dichotomy again, in a pair of proverbs from The Teaching of Ankhsheshonq:

"When a man smells of myrrh his wife is a cat before him."
"When a man is suffering his wife is a lioness before him."

I need to do some reading on Hathor this year, because of her close association with Sekhmet in the Destruction of Mankind, and also because she's associated with Tefnut in the Myth of the Eye of the Sun - there's that slippery interchangability between Egyptian deities, so several of them are "the Eye of Ra". (Hathor also flashes Ra in The Contendings of Horus and Seth and makes him laugh! Spot the parallel with Baubo in the story of Demeter's search for Persephone.)
Houlihan, Patrick F. Wit and Humour in Ancient Egypt. Rubicon, London, 2001.
ikhet_sekhmet: (ankh-mi-re)
Last bits from Complete Gods and Goddesses:

Bastet )

Sekhmet )


Wilkinson, Richard H. The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames and Hudson, London, 2003.
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I've got the beginnings of a bibliography on Sekhmet and related goddesses - suggestions are welcome!

In Ancient Egyptian Religion, Stephen Quirke says: "... [Ra] sends out his eye to slaughter the rebels, a deed that it accomplishes as Sekhmet 'the Powerful', raging fury, to return contented as Hathor, the motherly cow and loving mistress... The two goddesses, raging Sekhmet and content Hathor, act as two sides of the same nature, extreme expressions of a single passion, the rage that can be coaxed back to placidity, or the love that turns to hate.'

I'm used to the idea of Egyptian goddesses being identified with each other, but this and similar recountings of the Destruction of Mankind have Sekhmet actually turning into Hathor at the end. Are there actually versions of the story which end this way? Is the story told sometimes with Sekhmet and sometimes with Hathor? I'm dead curious and will have to try and find out!

Quirke, Stephen. Ancient Egyptian Religion. New York : Dover, 1997.
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Some snippets from Wine and Wine Offering in the Religion of Ancient Egypt:

Wine was the drink of "well-to-do" Egyptians, often imported, and and was used in funerary and temple offerings and in medicine. The earliest known scene of a wine offering is from the king Sahure's Pyramid temple. He's shown offering wine to Sekhmet, with an inscription that reads in part, "Wine and libation for the ka of the Mistress of the Two Lands, Sekhmet of Sahure".

Sekhmet was associated with wine due to the story of "The Destruction of Mankind". Noting that wine is often offered along with Maat, the author points out that Sekhmet "represents the untamed nature. The appeasement of Sekhmet, therefore, means the restoration of the cosmic order." One liturgy says, "How sweet it its taste (literally, its beauty) to the nose of the Leader of the gods, Sekhmet, in happiness."

I had no idea that Tefnut was linked to Hathor, and portrayed as a lioness-headed woman! Must follow this up.

Poo, Mu-Choo. Wine and Wine Offering in the Religion of Ancient Egypt. Kegan Paul, London, 1995.


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Plaything of Sekhmet

July 2017



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