'I think therefore I am.'  Descartes            'I AM THAT I AM.'  Exodus.3.        'I am what I am.'  La Cage aux Folles

16 September 2010

Ancient Egypt

Atum is all, self generating and source of everything, he is the sun god and king of all - Ra, he is Atum-Ra. Pre-existing within himself is the masculine life - Ankh and the feminine justice and truth - Ma'at. By spit or masturbation he brought forth dry air, the breath, Shu and his sister wife moisture, Tefnet. From them came the earth Geb and the sky, his sister wife Nut. Due to Ra's displeasure at their continual coupling, Geb and Nut were separated by Shu. From the earth and sky come Osiris, Isis, Nefertem and Seth. After a rebellion Ra withdrew to the heavens. Osiris became king of the world but, by the jealousy of Seth, he is murdered and scattered across Egypt. His sister wife Isis gathered the pieces and resurrected him long enough to bear a child - Horus. Osiris withdrew to be king of the underworld and Horus battled with Seth, and now Horus becomes King of the world and Kingship itself. He is Ra-Horakhty. He gives Kingship and the Pharaoh IS the son of Ra. 
Creation has many stories.
"the sky had not yet come into being, the earth had not yet come into being, the gods had not yet been born, and death had not yet come into being,"Pyramid Text 1466

Out of these primeval waters rose the god Atum, source of all being. Sitting on the primeval mound that rose above the chaotic waters, Atum created out of himself the deities Shu and Tefnut.

"O you eight chaos gods, keepers of the chambers of the sky, whom Shu made from the efflux of his limbs, who bound together the ladder of Atum…I am Shu, whom Atum created, from whom Ra came to be. I was not fashioned in the womb, I was not bound together in the egg. I was not conceived, but my father Atum spat me out…together with my sister Tefnut… The bnbn of Ra was that from which Atum came to be as Heh (chaos), Nun, (watery abyss), Kek (darkness), Tenem (gloom)


"The gods who came into being in Ptah: Ptah-on-the-great-throne. Ptah-Nun, the father who made Atum. Ptah-Naunet, the mother who bore Atum. Ptah-the-Great is heart and tongue of the Nine Gods."
To the ancient inhabitants Egypt was known as Kemet or the black land, which described the fertile black silt which covered the land beside the Nile at each year's inundation and brought abundant life. The people of the black land (remetch en Kemet) called the surrounding sands Deshret or the red land from which we get the name desert. The Nile created and is Egypt and duality was part and parcel of everyday life - life and death, the Lotus and the Papyrus, the red and white crown, Upper and Lower Egypt.
To record details of Egyptian history is not an easy task, as what we believe to be true changes so rapidly. Archaeologists and historians are continually proposing new theories and facts are being unearthed daily. As more interest appears to be paid to archaeology today, more work is being done than ever before, more people are involved and there is also more disagreement. 
What we generally think we know about Egypt is the 3,000 years of Pharaonic rule, from just a few hundred years before the construction of the colossal pyramids to the last days of Cleopatra VII. Following this came the Roman, the Byzantine and the Islamic periods, however although the Roman Emperors also styled themselves Pharaoh of Egypt the days of the independent Pharaoh really ended in 30 BCE
I may read a book glowing with praise for a certain ruler and then along comes another damning the same. I refer to one source for a list of Pharaohs and the next I investigate reveals a different list. The identity of a little known king like Smenkhkare is listed as possibly Akhenaten's son, brother, lover or wife. Even the spelling differs from source to source. The Egyptians had consonants similar to ours with some extra glottal sounds not found in the West and they wrote no vowels, which are currently left to guesswork (Consonants are  often separated by a standard 'e' or hints from the Coptic language). It is also easy to see from some writings that the authors preferences, legitimate theory, or even glaring bias has permeated his assumptions and inspired his conclusions.  Some books I have read recently appear to be re-writing history - not from academic discipline, but from a common wave of righteousness, evident as a world swings dangerously towards moral misconception. I am not an academic and I do not claim to have access to the truth, but anything I may say here is drawn from my amateur interest and from sources that, to me, appear to be logical or at least unbiased. That said I will probably lean towards my own preferences. To counter this I suggest you start buying your own books, travel to Egypt and get as intrigued and confused as everyone else.
Kings, dates and spelling vary from book to book. Interpreting hieroglyphs is a learning curve and the calendar did not exist as we know it, as dates were reborn with the rise of each new Pharaoh. The approximations have been deduced by counting backwards from a recorded astronomical event that occurred every 1460 or so years (the rising of Sopdet -Sirius) coinciding with the beginning of the solar year) and other hints from excavations and the first western style history by the priest Manetho in the third century BCE. According to James Henry Breasted the Egyptians began the year with the inundation of the Nile which coincided with the rising of Sirius above the horizon which was the 19th of July in the later Julian calendar. He dates the creation of this first remarkable calendar as far back as 4241 BCE which would have been the last time when these events coincided prior to the first known records of the calendar being in use. The year was counted as 365 days and the extra quarter of a day which we adjust for every leap (fourth) year was not taken into account, so the seasons got terribly out of synchronisation over the long centuries. There were twelve months of thirty days and at the end of the year five days were added. The year was also divide into three seasons. Inundation, Sowing and Harvest. It is strange that over the centuries they did not notice the imperceptible slipping of the calendar, but in each mans lifetime the gradual loss of a quarter of a day made little impact, but when the inundation occurred months late after the solar new year, the discrepancy was just accepted. The coming together of the Solar and Sothic year occurred only once every 1460 years (365 x 4). The other variation which makes dating difficult is that the years were measured from rise of each new Pharaoh. i.e. Year one of Ramses II etc.
SIRIUS (Alpha Canis Majoris) is the brightest star in the sky - from the Greek word for "searing" or "scorching," - Canis Major, the Greater Dog, represents Orion's larger hunting dog commonly called the "Dog Star." (there is also a smaller Sirius B) The first glimpse of Sirius in the dawn sky announced the rising of the Nile, but no longer because of the movement of the world’s axis over time. It is 23 times brighter than the Sun and twice as large. It is also only 8.6 light years away, just double that of the closest star to the Earth.

My Books on Egypt      
"The Complete Temples of Ancient Egypt"  Richard H. Wilkinson
"The Complete Valley of the Kings"  Nicholas Reeves  and Richard H. Wilkinson
"The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries" Mark Lehner
'The Complete Tutankhamun' Nicholas Reeves
"The Cult of Ra: Sun-Worship in Ancient Egypt"  Stephen Quirke
"The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt" Richard H. Wilkinson
"The Secret Lore of Egypt: Its Impact on the West"  Erik Hornung, 
"The Mind of Egypt: History and Meaning in the Time of the Pharaohs" Jan Assmann 
"The Search for God in Ancient Egypt" Jan Assmann
"Ramses II" T.G.H. James
"Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt" Ruth Schumann-Antelme, et al
"The Egyptian Philosophers"  Molefi Kete Asante
"The Life and Times of Akhnaton"  Arthur Weigall
"Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt" John Baines, Jaromir Malek
"How to Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs"  Mark Collier and Bill Manley
"An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary" Vol 1& 2  Ernest Alfred Thompson Wallis Budge, E. A. Wallis Budge 
"Egypt's False Prophet- Akhenaton"  Nicholas Reeves
"The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt"  edited by Ian Shaw
"Egypt: 5000 Years of Art"  Jaromir Malek
" Egyptian Book of the Dead"  (Papyrus of Hunefer) Dr. Ramses Seleem  (highly recommended)
"The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth by Day" (Papyrus of Ani) Raymond Faulkner "British Museum Dictionary of Ancient Egypt"  Ian Shaw and Paul Nicholson
"The Cairo Museum Masterpieces of Egyptian Art"  edited by Francesco Tiradritti
"Egypt the World of the Pharaohs"  edited by Regine Schulz and Matthias Seidel
"The Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egyptian Architecture" Dieter Arnold
" Pharaohs of the Sun" edited by Rita E. Freed, Yvonne J. Markowitz and Sue H. D'Auria
"Art and History of Egypt"  Alberto Carlo Carpiceci
"Chronicle of the Pharaohs" Peter A Clayton
"Egypt - Myths and Legends" Lewis Spence
"Egypt and the Sudan - a travel survival kit" Scott Wayne and Damien Simonis
"Ancient Records of Egypt: four Volumes James Henry Breasted 
"Moses and Monotheism" Sigmund Freud, 
"The Temples of Karnak: A Contribution to the Study of Pharaonic Thought" Georges De Mire
"Ramses -The Son of the Light"  "The Temple of a Million Years" "The Battle of Kadesh" "The Lady of Abu Simbel" "Under the Western Acacia"  also the 'Stone of Light' series of four 4 novels, The Queen of Freedom trilogy, The Black Pharaoh and The Tutankhamun Affair  by Christian Jacq -French Egyptologist/Novelist
"Warrior Pharaoh" a novel about Tutmoses III by Richarf A Gabriel
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