Category Archives: Quotes from the Ancient Books

The Great Cackler

The Ancient Egyptians welcomed and honored all sorts of creatures in their art,  in hieroglyphics, as well as in the depiction of the goddesses and gods. Egyptian artwork includes more than seventy species of birds and they can be seen in dozens of hieroglyphs. The wide range of birds in Egyptian art, mummified remains of birds, and textual references clearly indicate that birds played an important role in ancient Egyptian society and religion.

Waterfowl, including wild and domestic species of ducks and geese, were treasured offering (and eating) birds. There is evidence that the Ancient Egyptians actively bred geese and ducks as an environmental conservation measure. To go by the numbers recorded as part of temple offerings, Ramesses III, for example, donated over 430,000 individual waterfowl to temples during his thirty-one year reign. Obviously breeding and preserving the ducks and geese would have been of prime importance.

A Roman historian, circa 60 BCE wrote that the Egyptians, ‘raise them by their own hands, by virtue of a skill peculiar to them, in numbers beyond telling…..’ (Diodorus Siculus, Book I, 74).

 

Sanctuary ducks
Contented ducks at our Sanctuary (we do not eat our ducks!)

One of the oldest Gods, being part of the Ennead (the Creators), is Geb the God of the Earth,  whose wife is Nut, the sky Goddess. Geb is often represented as a man with a goose on his head, or simply a goose and he is known as the Great Cackler. He was believed to have fathered the primordial egg from which the sun hatched.
For Geb, it is written:

Behold, I rejoice on my standard, on my seat.
I am the Creator of Darkness, making my place in the limits of the Sky,
The Ruler of Infinity.
I am the Son of the Earth,
Sprung from the Egg of the World.
I rejoice in the Lord of the Palace.
My Nest is unseen; I have broken the Egg.
I am the Lord of Millions of Years.
I have made my Nest in the limits of the sky,
And descended to the earth as the goose who drives out all sins.
~The Leyden Papyrus

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Geb – the Great Cackler

A firm heart on the right path

Gracious is the face of the well-doer.
Let the beneficent one find great company too.
To seek without finding equals waste of time.
A firm heart on the right path can work
like gold and jewels.
~Papyrus of Ani

A pathway

Horus hears your words…

According to the Ancient Egyptian horoscope calendar known as the Cairo Calendar*, today is a very favorable day. Horus hears your words in the presence of the gods and goddesses. Everything you say and see shall be in goodness.

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Horus speaks:

“I am life rushing on, born from the egg of the world, born from the belly of a magic woman, born of my father’s dreams. I am the screech of wind, the rush of falcon wings, talons sharp as knives. I came after you. I stand before you. I am with you always. I am the power that dispels darkness. The seed laid into the void must grow. The candle’s only purpose is to shine in the darkness. Bread is meant to be ground to pulp in the teeth. The function of life is to have something to offer death. A man forgets, but his heart remembers – the love and the terror, the weeping, the beating of wings.’”

Normandi Ellis. Awakening Osiris: A New Translation of the Egyptian Book of the Dead (xxx-xxxi)

What words would you like to share with Horus?

Ancient Egyptian Eyes

 

* The actual title of the calendar is “An Introduction to the start of Everlastingness and the end of Eternity”

A Hymn to the Nile

This hymn was written around 2100 bce by a man named Khety and little is known about the author, although it has been suggested he was of low status. The hymn refers to Egyptian religion and the Egyptians’ relationship to the Nile. This also provides some clues as to the economy and Egyptian society as well as the Egyptians’ attitudes towards Nature.

A Nile

Hail to thee, O Nile! Who manifests thyself over this land, and comes to give life to Egypt! Mysterious is thy issuing forth from the darkness, on this day whereon it is celebrated! Watering the orchards created by Re, to cause all the cattle to live, you give the earth to drink, inexhaustible one! Path that descends from the sky, loving the bread of Seb and the first-fruits of Nepera, You cause the workshops of Ptah to prosper!

Lord of the fish, during the inundation, no bird alights on the crops. You create the grain, you bring forth the barley, assuring perpetuity to the temples. If you cease your toil and your work, then all that exists is in anguish. If the gods suffer in heaven, then the faces of men waste away.

Then He torments the flocks of Egypt, and great and small are in agony. But all is changed for mankind when He comes; He is endowed with the qualities of Nun. If He shines, the earth is joyous, every stomach is full of rejoicing, every spine is happy, every jaw-bone crushes (its food).

He brings the offerings, as chief of provisioning; He is the creator of all good things, as master of energy, full of sweetness in his choice. If offerings are made it is thanks to Him. He brings forth the herbage for the flocks, and sees that each god receives his sacrifices. All that depends on Him is a precious incense. He spreads himself over Egypt, filling the granaries, renewing the marts, watching over the goods of the unhappy.

He is prosperous to the height of all desires, without fatiguing Himself therefor. He brings again his lordly bark; He is not sculptured in stone, in the statutes crowned with the uraeus serpent, He cannot be contemplated. No servitors has He, no bearers of offerings! He is not enticed by incantations! None knows the place where He dwells, none discovers his retreat by the power of a written spell.

No dwelling (is there) which may contain you! None penetrates within your heart! Your young men, your children applaud you and render unto you royal homage. Stable are your decrees for Egypt before your servants of the North! He stanches the water from all eyes and watches over the increase of his good things.

Where misery existed, joy manifests itself; all beasts rejoice. The children of Sobek, the sons of Neith, the cycle of the gods which dwells in him, are prosperous. No more reservoirs for watering the fields! He makes mankind valiant, enriching some, bestowing his love on others. None commands at the same time as himself. He creates the offerings without the aid of Neith, making mankind for himself with multiform care.

He shines when He issues forth from the darkness, to cause his flocks to prosper. It is his force that gives existence to all things; nothing remains hidden for him. Let men clothe themselves to fill his gardens. He watches over his works, producing the inundation during the night. He causes all his servants to exist, all writings and divine words, and that which He needs in the North.

It is with the words that He penetrates into his dwelling; He issues forth at his pleasure through the magic spells. Your unkindness brings destruction to the fish; it is then that prayer is made for the (annual) water of the season; Southern Egypt is seen in the same state as the North. Each one is with his instruments of labor. None remains behind his companions. None clothes himself with garments, The children of the noble put aside their ornaments.

He night remains silent, but al1 is changed by the inundation; it is a healing-balm for all mankind. Establisher of justice! Mankind desires you, supplicating you to answer their prayers; You answer them by the inundation! Men offer the first-fruits of corn; all the gods adore you! The birds descend not on the soil. It is believed that with your hand of gold you make bricks of silver! But we are not nourished on lapis-lazuli; wheat alone gives vigor.

A festal song is raised for you on the harp, with the accompaniment of the hand. Your young men and your children acclaim you and prepare their (long) exercises. You are the august ornament of the earth, letting your bark advance before men, lifting up the heart of women in labor, and loving the multitude of the flocks.

When you shine in the royal city, the rich man is sated with good things, the poor man even disdains the lotus; all that is produced is of the choicest; all the plants exist for your children. If you have refused (to grant) nourishment, the dwelling is silent, devoid of all that is good, the country falls exhausted.

O inundation of the Nile, offerings are made unto you, men are immolated to you, great festivals are instituted for you. Birds are sacrificed to you, gazelles are taken for you in the mountain, pure flames are prepared for you. Sacrifice is made to every god as it is made to the Nile. The Nile has made its retreats in Southern Egypt, its name is not known beyond the Tuau. The god manifests not his forms, He baffles all conception.

Men exalt him like the cycle of the gods, they dread him who creates the heat, even him who has made his son the universal master in order to give prosperity to Egypt. Come prosper! Come prosper! O Nile, come prosper! O you who make men to live through his flocks and his flocks through his orchards! Come prosper, come, O Nile, come and prosper!

Luxor-Temple-at-Night

Source: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. I: The Ancient World, pp. 79-83.

A tiny protector for the full moon

What is it about bats? They have been portrayed as the alter-ego of Vampires due to the blood-sucking nature of three breeds of bats; however these are only found in South America and rarely go after humans. People are often terrified of these small animals yet most bats are harmless creatures who have unique eyesight, enjoy the dark, and have the ability to navigate with great precision in the darkness. Some are actually cute small mammals as can be seen by the featured images. Furthermore, bats are the only mammals that can truly fly and sustain flight.

Egyptian Fruit BAt

We have a small bat I’ve named Belfry who loves to fly laps around visitors to the basement of one of our Sanctuary homes; it is a charmingly Victorian Gothic experience. Belfry begged exploration of the nature of Bats in Ancient Egypt.

tinybat

The Ancient Egyptians believed that Bats could prevent or cure poor eyesight, toothache, fever, and baldness, and a Bat hung over the doorway of a home was thought to prevent the entry of demons that carried such illnesses. So rather than being blood-sucking demons, Bats were looked upon as tiny protectors.

Blessings on the Full Jasmine Moon!

The Falcon Speaks

Living within our Sanctuary are birds of all kinds. The calls and cries of the birds are constant and welcome. We hear our silky chickens at daybreak; the Barn Owls and Great Horned Owls at sunset; the cries of the Falcon and the sounds of the Ravens in the morning and throughout the day.

The Falcon follows and circles while I walk through the Sanctuary. He is Horus and passage 148 of the Coffin texts describes Horus in his own words:

I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done.I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of ‘Red Cloak’.

falcongod
Horus – Edfu Temple

Horus also speaks in the Book of the Dead:

I come to the room where the sun rose. A falcon flies in and settles on my wrist. In his mouth hangs the skin of a snake. ‘I am Horus,’ he cries. ‘From the land of kings I come, riding through the hot winds on the back of a jackal. Where priests murmured in crumbling temples, I flew through their sacred fires dropping feathers. I come to shout the wisdom of air. I’ve come with a sycamore seed in my beak. By the river we’ll sow it and watch it grow through the years. You will die there, Osiris; and I will sit nine thousand years in the tree’s white branches, one eye on each horizon, waiting for your return.

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Horus – Temple of Seti I

Homage to Mothers and to Re

The following is an homage to Mothers  (on behalf of Mother’s day which resonates with this ancient Priestess with several children and grandchildren):

“O my heart which I had from my mother ! O my heart which I had from mother !
O my heart of my different ages ! May there be nothing to resist me at the judgment. May there be no opposition to me from the assessors. May there be no parting of You from me in the presence of him who keeps the scales ! You are my Ka within my body, which formed and strengthened my limbs. May You come forth to the place of happiness whereto I advance. May the entourage not cause my name to stink, and may no lies be spoken against me in the presence of the god ! It is indeed well that You should hear !'”

Connected with this is an homage to Re~

“Here begin the praises and glorifications,
going out and in the domain of god(dess),
having benefit in the beautiful West,
coming out by day [Re],
taking any shape he [she] likes,
playing at Senet, sitting in a booth,
and coming out as a living soul.
After he [she] has arrived in port,
Osiris, the scribe Ani, said:
‘It is beneficial to him/her
who does it on Earth.'”
Book of the Dead, Chapter 17 (Ani & Nebseni)

 

 

Serket the Scorpion Queen

Serket (also known as Selkis or Serqet) is an Egyptian goddess of fertility, nature, animals, medicine, magic, and, above all; healing venomous stings and bites. Her name means “she who causes the throat to breathe,” and as well as “she who causes the throat to tighten. In addition to stinging the unrighteous, Serket could cure scorpion stings and the effects of other venoms such as snakebite.

One of the most dangerous species of scorpion, the Deathstalker, resides in North Africa, so Serket was considered a highly important goddess, and sometimes she was the patron deity of  pharaohs. She had a close association with the early rulers as their protector, most notably the rulers Scorpion I and Scorpion II.

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Our Sanctuary has many scorpions, most of which do not sting.

As the protector against venom and snakebite, Serket was said to protect the other deities from Apep, the snake-demon. Also, since the bite from many of the venomous creatures of Egypt could prove fatal, Serket was considered a protector of the dead, particularly being associated with venoms and fluids causing stiffening. She was the protector of the tents of embalmers and of the canopic jar associated with venom. Serket gained a strong association with Neith, Isis, and Nephthys, who also guarded the canopic jars. Eventually, as the Egyptian pantheon evolved, Serket began to be identified with Isis, sharing imagery and parentage.

Serket was shown as a scorpion or as a woman with a scorpion on her head. It is unknown if she had her own temple, however she had a good number of priests in many communities.

Nefertari’s tomb has the following utterance to Serket:

Serket, mistress of heaven and lady of all the gods. I have come before you [oh] king’s great wife, mistress of the two lands, lady of Upper and Lower Egypt, Nefertari, beloved of Mut, justified Before Osiris who resides in Abydos, and I have accorded you a place in the sacred land, so that you may appear gloriously in heaven like Ra.

— McDonald, J.K. 1996, House of Eternity: The Tomb of Nefertari, p. 69

 

 

The Hare Goddess Wenet

When we think of Easter, the “Easter Bunny” is a main topic for festivity and play.
In ancient Egypt, the rabbit, or hare, was the Goddess Wenet. The Egyptians venerated the hare because of its swiftness and keen senses. The hare’s form was also taken by other deities who had associations with the Otherworld. In one scene from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a hare-headed god, a snake-headed god, and a bull-headed god sit side by side; a hare-headed deity also guards one of the Seven Halls in the Underworld.

Wenet is further described in a portion of spell 17 of the Book of the Dead, which reads: “…Who is he? ‘Swallower of Myriads’ is his name, and he dwells in the Lake of Wenet…” To interpret the meaning of this passage, one remembers that hares can swim, and the Egyptian creation first came about in the watery abyss of Nun, out of which rose the primordial mound where newly born gods manifested. To “dwell in the Lake of Wenet” means to live renewed, revitalized, to be reborn, to live, forever and ever, renewed after death, as the god Atum-Re. Spell 17 goes on to identify the dweller in the Lake of Wenet as Atum-Re, the creator of all, whose father is said to be Nun, because he rose out of the “watery abyss.”

Other passages in the Book of the Dead mention Wenet. Spell 149 describes the “Mound of Wenet” though which the spirit travels to be reborn, rejuvenated while in the Otherworld or Duat:

“…As for that Mound of Wenet which is in front of Rosetjau, its breath is fire, and the gods cannot get near it, the spirits cannot associate with it; there are four cobras on it whose names are ‘Destruction.’ O Mound of Wenet, I am the greatest of the spirits who are in you, I am among the Imperishable Stars who are in you, and I will not perish, nor will my name perish. ‘O savour of a god!’ say the gods who are in the Mound of Wenet. If you love me more than your gods, I will be with you for ever…”

Not only is the Mound of Wenet a site of sacred creative energy, the ability of the hare to elude destruction, shows the Goddess Wenet, as associated with the hare, to provide a haven for the spirit, where it is rejuvenated on its journey through the Otherworld, a place where it cannot perish.

Ancient Egyptian Hare
“In many ancient civilizations the hare is a “lunar animal,” because the dark patches (maria, “seas”) on the surface of the full moon suggest leaping hares….In Buddhist, Celtic, Hottentot and ancient Egyptian cultures as well, the hare was associated with the moon…known for it’s vigilance and for the myth of it sleeping with it’s eyes open. The early Christian Physiologus mentions a further peculiarity of the hare: with its shorter front legs, it can run fastest uphill, eluding its pursuers…It’s speed and vigilance, according to Plutarch (AD 46 – 120), have a “divine” quality…A trickster figure, the hare outwits larger and stronger animals…For psychologically oriented symbologists, neither the speed nor the “timidity” of the hare is critical, but rather the rate at which it multiplies: this makes the animal a symbol of fertility…”

~ Biedermann, in the Dictionary of Symbolism

“Who is this Cat?”

The Egyptian Tree of Life, the Persea Tree, was guarded and protected by the Mau, the Great Cat. The sacred Persea Tree emerged when Ra (Re) as Atum the Sun-god first appeared at Heliopolis. The Tree played a part in the Creation Myth that explained how the nine gods who made up the Ennead of Heliopolis were created. The fruit of the Tree of Life gave eternal life and knowledge of the divine plan.

Apep was the Egyptian god of evil, chaos and destruction; depicted as a giant snake. He threatened divine order and attempted to prevent Re from bringing the sun into the sky each day. According to ancient Egyptian literature Re as the Great Cat Mau battled against Apep to prevent him from taking control of the Persea Tree of Life and the world. After many battles Mau defeated Apep and cut off the head of the serpent.

On the Book of the Dead written in the Papyrus of Ani there is this statement:

“I am the Cat which fought near the Persea tree in Anu on the night when the foes of Neb-er-Tcher (God of Creation) were destroyed.

Who is this Cat?

This male Cat is Re himself, and he was called ‘Mau’ because of the speech of the god Sa, who said concerning him: ‘He is like (Mau) unto that which he hath made; therefore, did the name of Re become ‘Mau.’ ” (Budge, 1895, p.287)

This papyrus shows Mau killing the snake with the ancient Egyptian knife, Khop.

Apep