ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)

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.

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: (Butterfly hair)
Ancient Egyptian composite deities were commonplace, but deities which combined male and female were almost unheard of. Is there a male god who can be identified as the mysterious "ithyphallic Mut" in the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak?

One possibiliy is Amun-Re, who (according to the Lexikon) appears at Medinet Habu as a lion-headed god wearing a sun-disc, with flail and crook, and wearing a long robe. And, in fact, I think there's an image of that deity in Alain Guilleux's discussion of the Karnak figure.

I've been interpreting the figure at Khonsu's temple as mummiform, but a raised hand could indicate a clinging robe rather than bandages (for example, the also unidentified cow- or bull-headed figure standing behind). Though the Medinet Habu god is seated and has its arms crossed, rather than having a hand raised below the flail, what's striking is that here is a male deity closely related to Khonsu represented with the lion-and-sun combo much more familiar from goddesses.

There are some similar figures: Amun-Min, lion-headed, ithyphallic, with flail, with falcon tail and with uraeus in place of sundisc, in the tomb of Thaty in the Bahariya Oasis; and this puzzling figure, ithyphallic (before someone decided to make him decent with a chisel!), with lion-head, Amun-crown, and flail. I don't even know what temple this is!
ikhet_sekhmet: (Default)
Well. I finally worked out why I couldn't locate a copy of The Temple of Hibis in el-Khargha Oasis III: The Decorations: only 300 copies were printed. Even the Library of Congress doesn't have one. Unless there's a source I've missed, that leaves me and the rest of the world lacking illustrations of most of the temple, including those tantalising sanctuary which catalogued every god in the country. Argh!

What I do have access to is Eugene Cruz-Uribe's Hibis Temple Project I, which contains detailed descriptions of over 650 figures from the sanctuary, cross-referenced to Decorations (as well as plates additional to Davies). There's every combination you can imagine of man, woman, mummy, ram, lion, falcon, crocodile, and inanimate object; I have an itch to enter the lot of them into a spreadsheet.

ETA: In Behind closed eyes, Kasia Szpakowska describes the "helpful deities" found on headrests who fight "nightmare-causing spirits": including griffins, and "fantastic creatures containing the most recognisable portions of powerful animals such as crocodiles, lions, panthers, hippos, hawks, and the Seth-animal." Similar critters appear on magic wands for the protection of pregnant women. (p 173) That's exactly the principle at Hibis, isn't it? These patchwork gods have the powers of multiple animals and spiritual objects.

It's only quite recently that I've really learned anything about Egypt past the New Kingdom. I always vaguely dismissed the Graeco-Roman stuff as somehow inauthentic. But the Late Period seems to have been a weirdly fruitful time for Egyptian religion. Hibis is seriously late, started off by the Saites and mostly completed by the Persians. I first heard of the temple when I came across a mention of a possible representation of Sekhmet in the form of a mongoose. More recently, I've been trying to track down a drawing or photograph of this figure:

Plate 2, Register III, no. 8. "'Mut, the Great.' Lion-headed figure, arm upraised supporting flail, hand grasping erect phallus. For parallel to this figure see the temple of Khonsu, PM 2(2), p 242. See LA IV, p. 247, no. 23; Lanzone, Dizionario I, p. 336, pl. 138, and Budge, Gods II, p. 28. For discussion on the concept of an ithyphallic goddess, see J. Ogden, BES 7 (1985/6): 31 and fig. 6." (p 2)
As you may imagine, I'm in hot pursuit of these references. Other figures which pique my interest include Nekhbet as a falcon-headed woman (p 10), a cat-headed and possibly female Re-Horakhty, a female Thoth (p 6), and this:

Plate 3, Register VIII, no. 27. "'Mut, the eye of Re, lady of strength(?), lady of [...]." The use of the udjat-eye for irt eye is not common. Only portion of an udjat-eye remains of entire figure." (p 21)
There are some photos of the temple's figures to be found online:
A search for "Hibis" on flickr.com will bring up various sets of pix:
Cruz-Uribe, Eugene. Hibis temple project, Vol 1: Translations, commentary, discussions and sign list. San Antonio, Texas, Van Siclen Books, 1988.
Davies, Norman de Garis. The Temple of Hibis in El Khārgeh oasis, pt.3. The decoration. Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition, New York, 1953.
Szpakowska, Kasia. Behind closed eyes: dreams and nightmares in ancient Egypt. Swansea, Classical Press of Wales, 2003.
ikhet_sekhmet: (Butterfly hair)
Lemme see if I can round up what I've got so far. Lots more references to follow up, but this will do for a start.

It looks like there are two basic versions of ithyphallic Mut:
  1. Mummiform, lioness-headed, with flail; seen at the Temple of Hibis and the Temple of Khonsu at Karnak;

  2. Winged, three-headed, with a man's head wearing the double crown, and a lioness head and a vulture head each wearing the double-plumed crown, described and illustrated in Chapter 164 of the Book of the Dead. ETA: Champollion included a version of this figure in his Pantheon Egyptien.
The ithyphallic Mut at Hibis is Mwt-'3t, Mut the Great; she holds her phallus in one hand. (Davies; Cruz-Uribe, p 2, referring to Davies, Plate 2, Register III, no. 8) The version at Karnak shows only the upraised hand, above which a flail sort of floats, and wears the solar disc with a uraeus. (More snaps here.)1 ETA: There's a drawing of this scene in Lepsius' Denkmaeler aus Aegypten (p 219, figure b).

ETA: Jorge Ogdon identifies the goddess part of the Karnak figure as Sekhmet: "It is relevant that the ithyphallic form of Min is here mixed with Sekhmet, the 'fiery eye' of Re [and] the 'terrible aspect' of Re sent by the god to destroy men, and, therefore, the Karnak relief depicts a 'terrible aspect' of sexual symbolism and of Min himself." (Ogdon believes Min's iconography is aggressive and apotropaic - both the erect phallus, and the arm raised in what he sees as a gesture of repulsion.)

The three-headed edition, aka Sekhmet-Bastet-Raet (or Sekhmet-Bast-Ra - the final t is not written) is also called "Mother of Škks" and "royal wife of Rhk".

The Lexikon also mentions an ithyphallic Sekhmet-'3t, standing and holding a snake in one hand, crowned by the solar disc. She appears on a healing statue (Turin 3031).

And now, a brief excursus on the Temple Of Amun-Re at Hibis. There seem to be a lot of ithyphallic deities at Hibis - well, there are a lot of deities at Hibis, full stop! 359 in the Sanctuary alone. It's just god-o-rama in there, a catalogue of every god in Egypt. Lots of sole examples of deities, and lots of mysteries: for example, who's the crocodile-headed goddess holding a sidelock (Plat 2, Register II, no. 13)?! And Sekhmet portrayed as a mongoose. Or a hedgehog. Scholars are divided. Basically, everyone in the Late Period was dropping acid.

(Note to self: the lion-headed mummiform ithyphallic god with flail in "Late Period Temples" is Wenep, not Mut - Cruz-Uribe p 32. The plate in Hoskins shows the same wall, but a lot of the drawings don't match. ETA: A similar deity - but who, and where?)
Cruz-Uribe, Eugene. Hibis temple project I: Translations, commentary, discussions and sign list. San Antonio, Texas, Van Siclen Books, 1988.
Davies, N. de Garis. The Temple of Hibis in El-Khargeh Oasis III (Publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Egyptian Expedition 17), the Museum, New York, 1953. [NB: not to be confused with the combined edition of volumes I and II brought out in 1973. Cruz-Uribe's book refers to plates in vol. III.)
Ogden, Jorge. Some notes on the iconography of the god Min. Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 7, 1985/6, pp 29-41.

1I found a 2005 forum comment from Dr. Cruz-Uribe in which he states this is more likely to be a male deity, possibly Min, "given its position on the wall and the context". It's cheeky for an amateur like me to dispute his opinion, but the resemblance with the Mut at Hibis is striking, as is the presence of the solar disc and uraeus, and perhaps also the figure of Khonsu standing behind her.

ETA: Another participant in the forum discussion remarks that the figure "is located in room 12 of the temple of Khonsu, west wall (PM II, p. 242, no. 109)." That matches Porter and Moss' Topographical Biblography, vol 2, p 242: "Room XII. L.D.Text,iii, pp. 69 [bottom] - 70 [top]." "(109) [1st ed. 82; Loc. KM. 620] Ramesses IV censing and librating to lion-headed and bull-headed gods. L.D. iii 219 [b]; PRISSE, Mon. pl. xxxvi [I]; CHIC. OR. INST. photos. 3247,3439." The refs are to (Loc:) Nelson, H. Key plans showing locations of Theban temple decorations. University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications, 56, 1941 (Closed Access DS42.4 .C45 vol 56, also Fisher F 932 9); Lepsius Denkmaeler (219 [b] linked above); and Prisse, A. Monuments égyptiens, 1847. (Fisher F709.32 1).


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Plaything of Sekhmet

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