Tag Archives: Apophis

The Ancient Egyptian Goddess Serket, a Dead Protector.


Last week we knew that the ancient Egyptian goddess Neith had her reasons for being part of that team of four goddesses-mourners (Isis, Nephtys, Neith and Serket) protecting the dead.

Serket as scorpion. Statue from Late period. Musée du Louvre. Ancient Egypt

Serket as scorpion. Statue from Late period. Musée du Louvre. Photo: www.museumsart.de

Serket was also a very important divinity in the Egyptian pantheon. She had a great healing power and for that reason she was invoked in ancient Egyptian remedies against scorpion bites.  

 

 

In the funerary sphere of Ancient Egypt Serket helps the Egyptian solar god in his daily rebirth. Re, during his journey in the darkness of the night has to fight against his enemy, the serpent Apophis, which is facing the solar bark.

Serket killing Apophis. Detail from the tomb od Seti I. XX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt

Serket killing Apophis. Detail from the tomb od Seti I. XX Dynasty. Photo: www.bibelwissenschaft.de

The Egyptian the Book of the Amduat from the New Kingdom tells how in the seventh hour, which takes place in the Cavern of Osiris, the power of Serket becomes a great help for defeating Apophis. This great serpent had drunk all the water and the solar bark juts could move thanks to the magic of Isis (the magic of Isis helped also Anubis in the mummification process of Osiris). So, Apophis was in the solar sphere of Ancient Egypt the image of chaos. And among the gods who helped Re against his enemies, was Serket, whose power helped in capturing Apophis and dismembering his body.

Serket from the tomb of Khaemwaset. Valley of the Queens. XX Dynasty. Ancient Egypt.

Serket from the tomb of Khaemwaset. Valley of the Queens. XX Dynasty. Photo: www.corbisimages.com

But Serket appears also associated to the Myth of Osiris. According to a version of the legend Serket helped Isis and Horus the Child when both had to hide from Seth in the marshes. Maybe for that reason Serket appears already mentioned in the Pyramid Texts of Old Kingdom associated with Isis, Neith and “The Two Harmonious Ones” (Pyr. 308).

However, is this link of the goddes with the protection of the dead, which comes from ancient times, related just to these two things we have mentioned?

Next week we will tackle an aspect of goddess Serket, which could make easier to understand her association with the protection of the corpse.

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Egyptian Words for “Lock of Hair” related to the Mourning Rite.


Detail of Papyrus of Ani. The lock of hair of Ani. XVIII Dynasty. British Museum. Ancient Egypt.

Detail of Papyrus of Ani. The lock of hair of Ani. XVIII Dynasty. British Museum. Photo: www.britishmuseum.org

Ancient Egyptians had different ways to refer to the action of disheveling hair. That happens because the Egyptian was a very rich language and had many centuries of history.

In this same line, we find that Egyptians also had various terms for designating “lock of hair“.

Egyptian word for "lock of hair".

Egyptian word for “lock of hair”.

The most common, that we have been reading and watching all over this blog is the word “swt” or “syt”.It was a very generic word for referring to a portion of head hair. This term seems to appear in the New Kingdom and according to the iconography it was chosen by scribes mainly for naming the pulled lock of hair related to the mourning practices.

Detail of the sarcophagus of Djedhor with Isis pulling her front lock of hair. Ptolemaic Period. Louvre Museum. Ancient Egypt

Detail of the sarcophagus of Djedhor with Isis pulling her front lock of hair. Ptolemaic Period. Louvre Museum. Photo: www.cartelfr.louvre.fr

Egyptian word for "lock of hair"

Egyptian word for “lock of hair”

The word “samt” has in Egytian a double value. In fact it is a controversial term. For some scholars it should be translated just as “sadness” or “lament“, but somne other scholar, due to the hair determinative and taking into consideration the context this word appears in, consider that it could be translated as “lock of hair“.

All along this blog we have seen how the word “samt” is closely related to the mourning rite and concretely to the mourning practice of cutting a piece-lock of hair of the professional mourners at the end of the funerary ceremony. So, one of the translations of  “s3mt” could be exactly this one: “lock of hair of a profesional mourner”.

Another very interesting Egyptian word for “lock of hair” is “nebed“.Lock of Hair nbd. Ancient Egypt It also appears in the New Kingdom and it seems to refer concretly to “plaited lock of hair“. It is very interesting to  notice the  between “nebed” and “nebedj”. Lock of Hair nbD. The bad. Ancient EgyptThis last word exists in Ancient Egypt from the Old Kingdom and its translation was “the bad“, in fact with the hair determinative it could also have the enemy determinative. There also was the proper noun of “Nebedj“, which was a way of naming Seth, the enemy of Osiris (and also Apophis,the enemy of Re).Lock of Hair nbD. Seth and Apophis. Ancient Egypt

We wonder if the word nebed for “lock or plait of hair” could come from the former Egyptian term nebedj, which was related to Seth, to he bad, to the enemy of Osiris. This is a dimension which links pefectly with the mourning practices with the hair of the professional mourners destinated to the resurrection of the dead. So, maybe nebedj was another Egyptian word for “lock of hair” again related to the mourning rite.