Thursday, November 15, 2012

dark secrets

Hail Min
who fecundates his Mother,
How secret is that
which you have done to her
In the darkness,
O Divine One, Sole One…
Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, page 84.

Who is this lady that is impregnated by her son? This idea is awfully strange in our modern day culture as it references ideas of incest and Sigmund Freud oedipal fantasies. At first glance it seems that libido was a driving force in this ancient Egyptian idea. This idea was known as Kamutef, bull of his mother, and it is the idea that in the cyclical legitimacy of kingship, the Pharaoh must continually impregnate the great goddess in order to engender the next incarnation of the Pharaoh. Ramesses II makes the claim that he has had many kas (life forces/incarnations) and king lists were celebrated on temple walls as a way to ensure their legitimacy.

Pharaoh Seti I with son Ramesses II at the Abydos King List

There are two great goddesses of ancient Egypt that got involved with this Kamutef. They would be Aset, in greek Isis and Het-Har which in greek is Hathor.

The sacred animals of Min were a falcon and a white bull, and one of Min's most important titles was Ka-mut-ef (the Bull of his Mother). Min was said to secretly unite with his mother under cover of darkness to beget himself.
Egyptian Mythology, Geraldine Pinch, page 165

The sacred animals of Min are presenting a clue as to his role as the bull of the heavens. Min is the virile aspect of the constellation of Orion. His right arm is raised in the classic striking pose of Orion warriors and his erect phallus a symbol of the three stars in the belt of Orion. This association with the constellation of Orion led at times to Min's association with Osiris as the consort of Isis and also his association with Horus, who as I have detailed in this blog post, can also be an aspect of the Orion constellation.

He is also found in the Coffin Texts where the deceased associates himself with the 'woman-hunting' Min in order to possess the god's sexual powers. During the Middle Kingdom Min became associated with the god Horus and Min-Hor and as a result he was sometimes described as the son of Isis, though the association also led to Min being worshipped as the consort of Isis and father of Horus.
The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, Richard H. Wilkinson, page 115.

Min on stela with goddess and child

An aspect of the great hidden light of the sun from the New Kingdom onwards, Amen-Re, was in ithyphallic form known as Min-Amen or Amen-Kamutef.

Ithyphallic Amen-Kamutef at Luxor Temple

The unusual epithet 'Bull-of-his-Mother' (Kamutef), already associated with the ithyphallic Amun by the Middle Kingdom, also needs to be considered here, since it both encapsulates the generative fertile power of the bull god and provides a veiled hint of his incestuous relationship with the mother goddess, who, at Thebes, more often than not was Isis. Much more explicit is an epithet of Min-Amun naming him as 'the fecundator of his mother'. For contained in the strange name Kamutef is the paradoxical truth that the god is both Father and Son, the agent of his own rebirth, brought about by the fertilization of his own mother.  And she is the matrix, the vessel of renewal, supporting and containing his fecund seed, though she herself is not to be understood as the active power engendering life. This lies in the male seed of the bull god, which she contains in her womb, seed which not only preserves the ever-recurring cycles of nature but also safeguards the generations of Egyptian Kings.
Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, page 82.

In this role, the fecundating light of Min-Amen comes to the metaphorical womb inside us - Isis, that houses Osiris as the Ba soul and will give birth to Horus. The hidden light of the sun combining with the great celestial light allows Osiris to wake up and impregnate Isis. Now is probably as good a time as ever to riff on the intricacies of the light of the sun in ancient Egyptian thought:

You see, the light of the sun is the ultimate provider. It gives life to all when it rises in the eastern horizon at daybreak. It is majestic in its glory and this newborn child that is birthed a new every morning by the goddess is a sight to behold a million times over. This child is the golden calf, the calf denoting its relationship to the ka. It is the beneficent giver and sustainer of material life. In this respect it is ka power that is on an unmatched scale. In previous blogs I have connected the power of Set to the ka, this ka power being relegated to the beastly animal life force that makes up our material self. Our ba soul is felled by this power at first but at some point in our lives it is realized that this power is necessary to give you healing wisdom in order to birth your greater self. However the ka power contained in the light of the sun is a different sort of power; it is a power that sustains all life on earth. With this realization the next step in thought is if the light of the sun is a majestic ka force then it must have a twin, another aspect of it that would be a beneficent majestic ba force. In New Kingdom ancient Egypt we see the rise of this all powerful state god named Amen who when combined with Re is given the designation Amen-Re. At some point there seems to be a progression of religious thought that allowed them to make this leap in faith. The simple meaning of Amen means 'hidden' so in this respect the Egyptians were recognizing another aspect of the light of the sun. Amen-Re could be represented as a man with two feathers in his crown or as a ram. When the Egyptians represented gods and goddesses as being manifest in human form it was expressing the belief that these gods are active in not only our material plane of existence but also having influence over us here on earth. In this respect you see Horus as a baby being represented as human and the celestial Horus as a hawk because he has taken to the skies and is not operating exclusively in the earthly realm. Amen-Re's iconography as a ram is telling us that he is a ba force, and this ba force is a twin to the ka force I have previously attributed to Re as the manifest light of the sun. However this ba force is hidden much like Osiris is hidden to us.  his great world soul comes to our world to enliven our individual souls. That is the great power of Amen-Re and why he rose to prominence in the New Kingdom and became the king of the gods in a very short period of time. He was the great liberating figure for all, a personal god who promised all encompassing salvation. You will not read about this anywhere else.

So why then did the Egyptians have to combine this Amen with Min? Well because in essence a ba can't enliven another ba. There has to be some kind of ka, a virile bull represented as Min, to give the life necessary for Osiris to wake up and do his thing. Min, the seed bull god known for his virility, presided over the Pharaoh's Heb Sed festival of renewal where the king had to demonstrate his vitality and virility to prove he was capable of impregnating the mother goddess Hathor and in essence continuing the cyclical legitimacy of kingship over the two lands, Upper and Lower Egypt, which contained within them the idea that a Pharaoh will rule over both the heavenly (spiritual) realm and the earthly (material) realm.

Much later in his life Amunhotep (III) celebrated a jubilee marking the thirtieth year of his reign.  It also seems to have been the occasion for his official, public declaration of his transformation into a deity, the sun disk itself.  He is shown in the sun bark with Hathor, and his artists rendered him far more youthfully during his last eight years, as if to stress that the king had been reborn.
This event had its origins in prehistory, and originally marked the ritualistic or symbolic death and resurrection of the ruler.  There are only fragments of inscriptional material that illustrate this event before Amunhotep's reign., but even those from the Old Kingdom share significant features of Hathoric ceremonies.  After the fall of the Old Kingdom these were taken over and imitated in the tomb scenes of private persons, who hoped thereby to be reborn after death, just like the kings.  Apparently Hathor's presence and her magical power were necessary to ensure this rejuvenation.  Lioness-masked priestesses using the curved ivory wands that were ritual objects of Hathor are depicted in Middle Kingdom private tombs and in the representations of these significant and memorable royal event in the tomb of Kheruef, a courtier of Amunhotep's queen, Tiy.  He had been present at the royal jubilee and recorded in his tomb the prescence of the goddess Hathor, about whom it was sung: "Make jubilation for The Gold and good pleasure for the Lady of the Two Lands that she may cause Nebmaatre (Amunhotep), who is given life, to be enduring…Adoration of The Gold when she shines forth in the sky…[T]here is no god who does what you dislike when you appear in glory…[I}f [you] desire that he (Amunhotep) live, cause him to live during millions of years unceasingly."
Amunhotep III also seems to have claimed divinity for his wife, Queen Tiy.  Artists altered existing statues of the queen to give her the blue hair and diadem of Hathor; others portrayed her from the start as this goddess, suggested she was the earthly manifestation of Hathor.
The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko, pages 118-119.

The ritual meaning of the dances, however, is very much in the spirit of New Kingdom Egypt, as can be gleaned from the songs inscribed above the young performers, who are accompanied by women musicians, playing flutes or clapping their hands in rhythm.  Over the dancers and musicians in the lower register is a powerful invocation to the starry snake goddess of the night, Hathor 'Gold', whom they call on to rise and be propitiated through the dances they perform in her honour.
But they dance not only for this beneficent queen of the night, shining in her fiery brilliance, but also for Amenhotep (III) who has great need of her power.  In their chant to the goddess they implore her to take him to the east of the sky, to the place where at dawn, 'the doors of the sky open and a god goes forth pure'.  And this is what they sing:

Make jubilation for Gold
and sweet pleasure for
The Lady of the Two Lands,
that she may cause
Nebmaatre [Amenhotep], given life,
to be enduring…
Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, pages 26-27.

It is in this aspect that the Pharaoh, the living Horus, becomes Min-Horus. He fecundates the mother goddess Hathor, who originally brought his material essence, ka, into the material world, and who is now his consort.  

The king of Egypt was identified with the god Horus, as texts in Hatshepsut's temple recall when Hathor says,: "I have wandered through the northern marshes, when I stopped at Khebt, protecting my Horus… I am thy mother who formed thy limbs and created thy perfection."  The vignette illustrating Spell 186 in the New Kingdom's Book of the Dead also shows the Hathoric cow emerging from a mountainside and parting clumps of papyrus plants.
The Great Goddesses of Egypt, Barbara S. Lesko, page 109.

He will impregnate Hathor in this aspect to complete his becoming when she births his spiritual ka in the morning dawn, which the ancient Egyptians called akhet, and the child born is the great leaping golden calf Ihy. 

yep that Golden Calf

Ihy being nursed by Hathor in the birth house at Denderah

In a sun-hymn dating to Haremheb's reign, Hathor is specifically named as the mother in the eastern horizon bearing the young Re within her. He is 'vital and young in the sun-disk within your mother Hathor' (Book of Day in the tomb of Ramesses VI at Thebes)
My Heart My Mother, Death and Rebirth in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, page 182.

As i have previously mentioned in this blog space, please note the above passage is also describing the essence of Re is encapsulated within the sun-disk and that Re is not the sun-disk. Digging deeper into this declaration, it becomes clear that Hathor is the dawn, the akhet. This passage below is also a confirmation of the understanding that the Pharaoh must become the bull of his mother Hathor if he wishes to continue in the Pharaonic cycle of rebirth.

But as musician, seated though he is, King Amenhotep (III) is continuing a long tradition of royal music-making  at Thebes.  In inscriptions on a stela which Herbert Winlock found among the rubble at Deir el-Bahri, the Middle Kingdom ruler, King Antef, describes how he too, some 700 years before Amenhotep, was a night-time music-maker for Hathor, accompanying Re on his journey through the Netherworld:

My body speaks, my lips repeat
pure Ihy-music for Hathor.
Music, millions
and hundreds and thousands of it,
Because you love music,
a million of music for your ka,
In all your places.

Through such music-making, both Antef and Amenhotep become open to renewal through the shining, beautiful goddess.
Hathor Rising, The Power of the Goddess in Ancient Egypt, Alison Roberts, page 29.

So Amen-Re has to impregnate the mother Isis who will birth the baby Horus who becomes Pharaoh and eventually cyclically becomes Re again as he is reborn in the akhet as Ihy and Ihy becomes Re. On the other hand the mature Horus has to impregnate his consort Hathor to allow for the birth of this bull calf Ihy. Hathor is the great mother goddess of the Ennead of which Horus is the ultimate expression of, hence the meaning of Hathor's name, the house of Horus. This is the reason behind the ancient Egyptian concept of these gods being kamutef, bull of his mother.