Hair is Water in Ancient Egypt.

In the ninth hour of the Book of the Gates there is the "pool of the drowned". These are the waters of the Nun with bodies floating. These are the primeval waters, which revives the deceased. Scene from the tomb of Tauseret in the Valley of the Kings. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.thebanmappingproject.com

In the ninth hour of the Book of the Gates there is the “pool of the drowned”. These are the waters of the Nun with bodies floating. These are the primeval waters, which revives the deceased. Scene from the tomb of Tauseret in the Valley of the Kings. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.thebanmappingproject.com

The women’s hair is also assimilated to the liquid element. To give the hair sm3 is a way of giving the primeval waters of the first moment in the Egyptian cosmogony. The regenerating rite is mainly a creation ceremony, so it is necessary to remember the primeval waters (Nun) where the world came from. Making the nwn gesture of throwing the hair forwards, the mourners transfer to the corpse the Nun (Nwn), the mythical waters that originated everything. This is a very important step in the regenerating rite, since the renovating waters (so the mourner’s hair) erase the mortal past and transport the deceased to a new existence. Coming back to the primeval moment, the dead one becomes a new-born baby, it is when the Egyptian funerary texts refer to him as an “inert one in the Nun “, it is just the instant when his mother’s water break and he is reborn.

Hair sm3 also symbolizes the waters of the inundation. In this work we have seen how the nwn gesture was as well made in two other Egyptian festivities: The Festival of the Valley and the Sed Festival. Both celebrations coincide with the appearance of Sothis in the sky and the following rise of the Nile and both festivities are a process of death and resurrection for granting the continuity of Amun and Pharaoh’s power respectively.

Dancers in the Festival of the Valley. Red Chapel of Hatshepsut in Karnak. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

Dancers in the Festival of the Valley. Red Chapel of Hatshepsut in Karnak. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

In both events there were a group of dancers making the nwn gesture, which as we understand it, it was more than just an artistic movement. According to us, and due to the assimilation between hair and water, when throwing their hair forwards those dancing women were announcing the regenerating waters, which will renew the power of both god and king. In the same way, in the mourning ritual, with the nwn gesture the mourner sent the renovating waters to the deceased.

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