Tag Archives: egypt

Ringlets and Plaits, Horns and Snakes, Moon and Resurrection.


In ancient Egypt some aspects of the hair have just a symbolic dimension in the deceased’s resurrection, these are the cases of the two ringlets wprty and the plait of hair Hnskt.

The goddess Hathor with lateral ringlets. Column from the temple of Khnum in Elephantine Island. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The goddess Hathor with lateral ringlets. Column from the temple of Khnum in Elephantine Island. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Wprty are, according to the Coffin Texts, the two lateral ringlets at both sides of Hathor’s face; these two pieces of hair are in Egyptian imagery a kind of curtains which open and let see the goddess’ face. It is about the lunar divinity and to see her face means to see the moon, it is the metaphoric access to light from the darkness of the death, so a proof of resurrection. When the two wprty open, the deceased can come into the Herefater and be guided by the moon through the night sky.

Regarding the plait Hnskt, it is assimilated to the snake and the horns, both elements having a lunar nature. In Egyptian belief moon and snake are immortal, due to their cyclic renovation; they change gradually without dying; in fact that change is a way of regeneration and getting in a new existence. This is the Egyptian idea of death: it was not a disappearance, but a change of condition in the human life, so the funerary ceremony could be considered as a rite of passage.

Comparison of crescent (photo: www.channing.info) with the horns of a bull. Relief from a block in the Open Air Museum of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martíni.

Comparison of crescent (photo: http://www.channing.info) with the horns of a bull. Relief from a block in the Open Air Museum of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Horns in many ancient cultures, and also in the Egyptian one, were a symbol of regeneration thanks to the shape, which remembered the first quarter of the moon. This union between hair and horns makes us as well think about the two ringlets wprty of Hathor as a hair image of the two horns of the goddess. Precisely for that reason, the horns of Hathor can be connected with the plait Hnskt, which, according to one version of the Osiris legend, the goddess lost.

Head fragment from a statue of a "Bald of Hathor". New Kingdom. Metropolitan Museum of New York. Photo: www.metmuseum.org

Head fragment from a statue of a “Bald of Hathor”. New Kingdom. Metropolitan Museum of New York. Photo: http://www.metmuseum.org

In turn, all that can be related to the clergy of Hathor, whose priests were called “bald of Hathor” and whose requirement was the lack of hair in the crown, so remembering the goddess’ mutilation.

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The Rite recalls the Myth. The Hair gives Breath of Life and Virility in Ancient Egypt.


The whole funerary ceremony is full of practices that recall the mythic death and resurrection of Osiris and the mourning rite is not an exception. The legend tells how the goddess Isis, when mourning the death of her husband, became a kite and put over the mummy of her husband; flapping her wings she could give the breath of life to Osiris and helped in his reanimation. In this work we have seen that there is also in the thought of ancient Egypt an assimilation between hair and feathers, therefore the nwn gesture of the mourner shaking the hair sm3 forwards the corpse could be interpreted as a way of producing the air that the deceased needs for breathing and coming back to life.

Isis as a kite over the corpse of Osiris. Relief from the temple of Seti I in Abydos. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.common.wikimedia.org)

Isis as a kite flapping wings over the corpse of Osiris. Relief from the temple of Seti I in Abydos. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.common.wikimedia.org)

Changing into a kite, Isis could also restore Osiris’ virility. Egyptian funerary texts claim that when the mourners (smwt) give their hair sm3w to the deceased, he impregnates those women. It is interesting to notice that the Egyptian year started with the inundation (season of akhet), which was announced in some rituals (also the funerary one) with the nwn gesture, and the first month of that season was called, which means « inebriation ». On the other hand, the reduplicated form of txi is txtx and means “to dishevel”.

Isis as a kite is over the body of the dead. Statuette of prince Tutmosis, son of Amenhotep III. XVIII Dynasty. Altes Musuem (Berlin). Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Isis as a kite is over the body of the dead. Statuette of prince Tutmosis, son of Amenhotep III. XVIII Dynasty. Altes Musuem (Berlin). Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Inebriation and dishevelling are two concepts together in the orgy, and this one is a way of coming back to the primeval chaos. It is the first state of creation, where sexuality and dishevelled hair take part. From anthropological point of view orgy is an act on behalf of life, it helps in generating a new productivity and in agricultural societies it strengthens the agrarian fertility; the orgy stimulates the renovation from the chaos. If the funerary ceremony is a way for getting the deceased’s resurrection through a return to the primeval moment, the eroticism, which encourages the chaos’ creation power, needs to be also a part of the ritual.

When the Egyptian mourner was making the nwn gesture during the Opening of the mouth ceremony, she was making a symbolic movement with her hair sm3 recalling the episode of the Osiris legend when Isis over the mummy restored the virility of her husband and copulated with him.

Opening of the Mouth ceremony; on the right the mourning is making the nwn gesture forwards the mummy. Tombof Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Opening of the Mouth ceremony; on the right the mourning is making the nwn gesture forwards the mummy. Tomb of Renni in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

The ejaculation of Osiris was a very important step in the myth because it was a proof of his physical regeneration; in fact the virility is in Egyptian sacred iconography a resource the artist had for indicating the resurrection, since he represented the deceased with “penile erection”. It also granted the conception of Horus, his heir, his avenger, the one who eliminated the evilness and restored the order, succeeding to the Egypt’s throne and allowing his father Osiris to revive as king of the Hereafter.

The Hair sm3 and the Healing of the lunar Eye in Ancient Egypt. Part II: The damaged Eye of Horus.


The god Thoth. Relief from the ptolemaic temple in Deir el-Medina. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The god Thoth. Relief from the ptolemaic temple in Deir el-Medina. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

We find already in the Old Kingdom the belief of Thoth being the god who healed the injured eye of Horus with sputum:

He has come with that one that spits the hair (sm3), for his hair (sm3), which is sick at the beginning of each month and sick[1] at the beginning of middle month[2].

This passage belongs to a chapter of the Pyramid Texts which mentions two lunar festivities (3bd[3] and smdt(?)[4]); they are Helioplitan celebrations with some rituals for the reconstruction of the lunar eye, to give it back the health[5]. These festivities appear also in the Coffin Texts when the deceased has to be transformed into Thoth:

“…this N. is the one who makes the rite ibd (the second day of the month) and he is the one who controls the rite nt (fifteenth day of the month).The plait of hair of Horus is on the hand of this N. in the Thoth’s entourage…“ [6] (important to remember that chapters 167 and 674 mention mourner’s hair sm3 joint with two lunar festivities: snwt and dnit).

Egyptians considered equal the lunar eye and hair sm3, and we will see that many times. After spitting at the hair sm3, chapter 133 says how the deceased gets up triumphant, it seems that after healing the eye, he could rebirth again. In chapter 164 again the act of spitting at the hair sm3 is a healing action, here the god spits first over the shoulder. According to P. Barguet the passage relates the healing of the Osiris’ injured shoulder and hair sm3, that is, the lunar eye[7] ; the chapter mention mutilations that have happened in the myth of Osiris and that have been solved after the battle.

In chapter 610 the healing is over the hair sm3 of Atum and also over Hdd. In Egyptian mythology the moon, that is, the Udjat eye, is one of the eyes of Atum, the other one was the sun. Hdd is a name coming from the verb hd, which means “attack”[8]. It is a 2-lit. verb with second radical geminated in perfect passive participle. So, the meaning of hdd could be “attacked”, “the one who has been attacked”. This way, Hdd would be personifications of the attacked eye of Horus, hence the need of refreshing it for its cure. But it is also interesting to notice how in chapter 667 the healing of the hair sm3 is at the same level of offering a leg and giving breath, both gestures for giving life.

Finally, we find a very visual moment in all that process of healing the damaged lunar eye. We have translated chapter 335 as the action of raising the hair from the Udjat eye. P. Barguet considered that m was an equivalence preposition, so for him the text was saying that the hair Sny was the same Udjat eye. But if we take preposition m as “from”, the passage makes more sense. It would be describing the gesture of moving the hair away from the lunar eye for healing it, and also from the face for allowing seeing the light after the darkness.

Falcons have an excelent vision. In the image a Lanner Falcon. Photo: www.ibc.lynxeds.com

Falcons have an excelent vision. In the image a Lanner Falcon. Photo: http://www.ibc.lynxeds.com

In Ancient Egypt (as many cultures) the eye, as the vision organ, symbolizes the light and its disappearance or mutilation is a synonym of darkness. The sacrifice of the eye and its following recovery supposes a regenerating act, in the same level of creation after the chaos. Restitution of vision means access to light after the darkness of the death.

We have already seen in chapter 533 how the face of Hathor gets visible and clear after separating the two lateral ringlets, opening them as if they were curtains the deceased can see the full moon. When moving the hair Sny away from the face allows healing the eye and makes the Udjat eye visible, the healthy eye, that is, the full moon. On the other hand, we know that hair Sny is similar to hair sm3, the same hair that did not allow to see the brightness and could be a symbol of darkness and shadows[9]. The one who moves the hair away from the eye is Thoth because, according to the Egyptian legend, he is the lunar god who heals the lunar eye after the fight against Seth.

The connection between the hair and the eye of Horus is clear, but if Thoth spits over the hair sm3 for healing the eye, this one cannot be the Udjat eye (the healthy one), but the damaged eye of Horus, which in Egyptian was nknkt[10] or nkkt[11] and who needs a cure for becoming the Udjat eye.destacada 24de junio Once again we find the hair with a negative nuance; we have seen previously that the hair sm3 was a symbol of the chaos, the primeval waters, it was the Nun that dominated the world before the final creation. H. Kees considered that the hair sm3 in the context that concern us could be the damage suffered by the lunar eye[12], which makes the darkness of the night; in the same way that the hair sm3 over the faces of the mourners covers their eyes and they cannot see. So, to split over the hair sm3 would eliminate that damage, in the same way that to move the hair away from the face means to see the light.

The god Seth. Relief from a block in the Open Air Musuem of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The god Seth. Relief from a block in the Open Air Musuem of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The hair sm3 would then symbolize in Egyptian belief the disorder dominating during the fight between Horus and Seth. This combat is full of sense, since, as says J.E. Cirlot, the fight is the “primeval sacrifice”[13]; it is the combat between two apposite forces, and it contributes to stimulate the vital energy, whose result is the victory of the order over the chaos. This victory means the world creation, and the winner goes out from it as a hero with an extra power. In the Egyptian funerary context that meant the resurrection of the deceased, the access to the light to his new life.


[1] The word nqm, parallel to “sick”, in reality designates a “bad property of the hair”(Wb II, 344, 3).

[2] Pyr., 521.

[3] Wb I, 65, 10.

[4] Wb IV, 147, 1.

[5] S. Ratié, 1984, p. 179.

[6] iw dnt irt ¡r Hr(y)-a n N pn m smswt DHwty CT  IV, 277.

[7] P. Barguet, 1986, p. 377, n. 10.

[8] Wb II, 504, 15.

[9] According H. Kees, Sni and  sm3 have both the same relationship with the lunar legend (H. Kees, 1925, p. 8).

[10] Wb II, 347, 6.

[11] Wb II, 347, 9.

[12] H. Kees, 1925, p. 8.

[13] J. E. Cirlot, 1991, p. 282.

Hair, Enemy and Sacrifice in Ancient Egypt. Part I: The Tekenu.


Related to the lock of hair s3mt we have seen two important points:

  • To keep the lock of hair s3mt intact is a hope of new life for the deceased.
  • The lock of hair s3mt seems to be victim of ablation, just in the moment when the dead gets his head back again (see chapter 532 of Coffin Texts).

It is interesting to notice that the Egyptian verb utilised for “cut” the s3mt is Hsq, which also means “decapitate”[1] ; so the whole sentence could also be translated as « behead the lock of hair s3mt ». The act of beheading is very close to sacrifice. The idea of sacrifice is very common in Ancient Egyptian religion, mainly the sacrifice for avoiding dangers or the slaughter as revenge. But our area is funerals, dead, and renovation, resurrection, regeneration. Could we think of a symbolic sacrifice made in funerals for benefitting the deceased? Or do we know sacrifices made in Ancient Egypt with renovation finality? Yes, we do and we know a victim’s name: tekenu. This enigmatic figure appears in Sed Festival rites and also in funerary ceremony[2]. In both cases he is a man wrapped in a kind of shroud sit or in foetal position and his role is still too unknown.

Tekenu wrapped in a shroud and in foetal position over a sledge. Painting from the tomb of Ramose in Gourna.XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Tekenu wrapped in a shroud and in foetal position over a sledge. Painting from the tomb of Ramose in Gourna.XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

According to some scholars there was in ancient Egypt a prehistoric rite where a royal adolescent was sacrificed[3] and wrapped into an animal skin[4]. After the young’s death, the king would cover himself with that animal skin obtaining so the vitality the teenager had impregnated[5]. This gesture would symbolize the king’s return to his mother womb and the following rebirth; granting this way the renovation of the sovereign. The human sacrifice of Sed Festival, real or symbolic, is proven from the scenes of some slabs dating from the early I Dynasty. Maybe this practice of murdering was abandoned during that same I Dynasty and had just a symbolic dimension. After a previous symbolic sacrifice (human or animal)[6] the Pharaoh would be wrapped in a skin/shroud for getting the vitality needed.

It seems that in the heb Sed, the sacrifice had two values, one Osiriac and propitiatory and another ones Sethiac and expiatory. Both, although apparently opposed are complementary, since the death of Osiris requires next Seth’s. On one hand Osiris’ death reflects vileness and on the other hand Seth’s death means the victory of the good over the evil. Two faces of the same coin, where the king dies and comes back to life as Osiris did, while the meanness is destroyed as was Seth in the myth[7]. The tknw of some images of New Kingdom as a huddled person on a sledge could be in origin that human victim of archaic times sacrificed for the benefit of the sovereign, replaced in funerals for the benefit of the dead.

One of the first documents of Sed Festival is the tablet of king Djer found in Abydos by Petrie. The entire scene is disposed in there registers and in the first row is one of the little documents in iconography of a human sacrifice in Ancient Egypt.

Tablet of king Djer. Photo: www.ancient-egypt.org

Tablet of king Djer. Photo: http://www.ancient-egypt.org

The second register shows two possible victims represented in a conventional way, the surprising thing is that both have a frontal trace. What did the sculptor want to represent? The answer is not so easy. A priori it could remember the image of the so common Egyptian image of the enemy, usually interpreted as gripping his own stream of blood flowing from his front. EnemyBut, makes it sense to hold a liquid element with both hands? Would not be more logical to think of a more solid element to catch with both hands?


[1] Wb III, 168, 16.

[2] Designation tknw for the victim in funerals appears in New Kingdom.

[3] A king’s son, that is a prince (msw nsw).

[4] The use of animal skins is common in initiation ceremonies (J.L. Le Quellec, 1993, p. 335)

[5] Enel, 1985, p. 204.

[6] J. Cervelló Autuori, 1996, p. 211.

[7] J. Cervelló Autuori, 1996, p. 209.

 

The Plait hnskt in the Coffin Texts.


Ancient Egyptian religion show us how rich was ancient Egyptian thought. They converted common things into special elements able of helping the deceased to get to a new life. There is another aspect of the hair which had a very strong symbolic meaning. The Coffin Texts mention plaits hnskt as an element related to two concrete things: horns and snakes, and both in a context where the dead starts his regeneration.

In chapters 181 and 218 the text mentions an action located in a celestial context where the deceased going forward occident is

“the bull of the plait”[1] ink ka hnsktyand « the bull, lord of the plait »[2] [3].

wsirpakanbhnskt

Both chapters are describing the deceased in a lunar shape. To use the image of a bull for it is not a random choice. It comes from the fact that the bovine horns, due to its shape, are a symbol of the crescent of the moon[4]. That is why in the glorification ceremony in Papyrus Louvre 3079 we read: “Oh! The one, who appears as the moon, bull, which rejuvenates himself in the sky every day!” [5]. Horns are the image of the first quarter of the moon, and therefore they symbolise the evolution of the star from the moment it starts its regeneration.

Comparison of crescent (photo: www.channing.info) with the horns of a bull. Relief from a block in the Open Air Museum of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martíni.

Comparison of crescent (photo: http://www.channing.info) with the horns of a bull. Relief from a block in the Open Air Museum of Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The connection between bull and moon explains why in the Songs of Isis and Nephtys Osiris is called “bull which fertilizes the cows[6]. Sometimes “the bull of the stars” was assimilated to kA-mwt.f (“the bull of his mother”)[7]; the one who fertilizes his mother is father and son at the same time, this way he grants in the same person the present and future continuity[8]. We are facing the deceased Osiris, the one who impregnates Isis (she, who is mother and wife at the same time) and who is son (as newborn-resurrected) and Horus father.

Amon-Re Kamutef. Relief from the temple of Karnak. XIX Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Amon-Re Kamutef. Relief from the temple of Karnak. XIX Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

As previously, chapter 219 relates how the deceased travels from East to West and on a boat he crosses the lakes of the horizon. In this context he says:

“…I cross the lakes of the horizon.

I go down in them in (or with) the eggs,

 I go out from them with snakes.

I took over their souls;

I pulled their plaits out…”[9]

Ipulledtheirplaitsout

 Hnkst is a parallel of hnskt. And A. Erman and H. Grapow translate hnksty as plait as a synonym of snake, due to the likeness between both[10].

It seems that to take the souls from the egg and pull the plaits out are on an equal footing, as if the text were describing the act of going out with the snakes. Making that, the deceased catch the life that is inside the eggs, one of the main life centres; this life would be symbolised in those snakes and/or plaits of hair. The dead would go out from the egg (the rebirth) in the same way Osiris went out from the Nut’s womb with the ureus[11]. We would be facing two different forms of saying the same thing: the deceased’s rebirth.

On the other hand, the snake is a lunar animal par excellence. For ancient Egyptians this animal was a symbol of cyclic and temporary transformation (as it was the moon), of fecundity and perpetuity.

Furthermore the word Hnskt is linked with the celestial sphere. The word for Horus (Hr) is also the word for “face” (Hr); we could deduce from that an image of the sky as a face, maybe the face of Horus. The moon and the sun would be the two eyes, while the hair would be the firmament’s supports. Already in V and VI dynasties the Pyramid Texts tells how the plaits Hnskwt of the face of Horus were considered the abode the his four sons[12]; and the Pyramid Texts of king Ounas mentions four ancient spirits who lived in the plaits Hnskwt of hair of Horus and were at the eastern part of the sky holding their sceptres[13].

Horus and his four sons. Painting from the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo martín.

Horus and his four sons. Painting from the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.


[1] CT III, 181

[2] In coffin L1Li instead of “plait” it has the word “horns” hnwty.

[3] CT III, 218

[4] G. Durand, 1979, p. 75.

[5] Pap. LouvreI. 3079, cols. 84-86.

[6] Songs…3,6

[7] In the New Kingdom it was an epithet of Amon.

[8] Ph. Derchain, 1962, p. 33.

[9] CT III, 219

[10] Wb III, 121, 2.

[11] See post about nwn gesture and Nut.

[12] E.A.Wallis Budge, 1969, vol. I, p. 466.

[13] E.A.Wallis Budge, 1969, vol. I, p. 157.

Hathor and Baldness in Ancient Egypt Symbolism.


We have already seen the importance of Hathor and her two ringlets in the Ancient Egypt funerary imagery and symbolism. This goddess has many epithets which link her directly with the hair element; she is the “Lady of the plait” (Hnskt) or « the One of plait » (Hnsktt, Hnkstt)[1]. Also the priestesses who took part in the Hathor mysteries were called « the ones with plaits » (Hnskywt) or « the ones with ringlets » (wprtywt)[2].

There is a fragment of the Ramesseum Papyrus XI, where we read: “Mi heart is for you, my heart is for you as the heart of Horus is for his eye, the one of Set for his testicles, the one of Hathor for her plait, the one of Thoth for his shoulder[3]”. The text is mentioning mutilations suffered by these gods, so maybe were there an Egyptian myth where Hathor could lose a plait of hair? If so, we could then understand why in some magical practises dedicated to Hathor there had to use a plait of hair[4].

We must also take into consideration that in the Egyptian religion Hathor and Isis were associated. Plutarco assured that Isis pulled herself a lock of hair out when she knew about Osiris’ death[5]; this assertion makes us think of the image of mourners pulling their hair in funerals. We could link that with the damages mentioned above suffered by those gods in some parts of their bodies found in the text of Ramesseum Papyrus; however we have also to consider:

1) The iconography just shows us the gesture of pulling the lock of hair, but not the mutilation Plutarco mentions.

2) Ramesseum Papyrus mentions mutilations caused by another one to the god. In the case of Isis we would not be facing an attack to the goddess, but a self lesion.

Hathor and the loss of hair derives us to some statues dating from New Kingdom representing men sit in front of an Hathor’s symbol and which were studied by J.J. Clère[6]. Those men either they are bald, or they were supposed to be bald[7], because the inscription in all of them describe them as « the bald of Hathor ».the bald of Hathor

The Egyptian word for « bald » is is o iasiAs calvo , which defines the natural baldness, that is, the alopecia[8]. J.J. Clère considers that the term ias would have two senses: on one hand it would be « bald » in the most generic meaning, and on the other hand it would allude to the “sincipital baldness”[9]. That is, the alopecia in the upper half of the cranium, so the baldness in the wpt, as in the statues of the ias priests of Hathor[10], who had to be bald.

Head fragment from a statue of a "Bald of Hathor". New Kingdom. Metropolitan Museum of New York. Photo: www.metmuseum.org

Head fragment from a statue of a “Bald of Hathor”. New Kingdom. Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. Photo: http://www.metmuseum.org

Around this matter it is interesting to have a look on a sentence in the Songs of Isis and Nephtys, which although very incomplete, could gain sense with all we have seen until now:

“…the baldness on the top of the head…” [11].

baldness on the top of the head

 J.J. Clère did not see the relationship between this partial sentence and the context it is written[12], but in fact it has, because that text is mentioning the damage that Seth has caused: « Seth is in every bad thing he has done » [13], «he has messed up the sky administration» [14], «and he has sent to us bad intentions» [15]. Could we think about a version of the Myth of Osiris, where Seth amputated the hnskt of Hathor? That would explain the comparison with the eye of Horus and the testicle of Re.

That being the case, the term is/ias would describe a sincipital baldness, however not a natural alopecia, but one caused by mutilation; ias would refer to an involuntary loss of the hair, while the term f3k would refer to the voluntary shave.

Equally we could think that Hnskt would be not just a lock of hair falling on the back, but also the hair in the top of the head (wpt). The priesthood of Hathor in the statuary lacks the hair on the wpt; the top of the head; where Hathor, as the cow goddess, has her horns. Could we then think of assimilation between the hair and the horns? If so, then we should also think about a possible version of the Myth of Osiris where Seth damaged Hathor’s horns. Maybe it would be more reasonable to consider that the Hathor in the Ramesseum Papyrus was in fact Isis, the mourning wife pulling her lock of hair as a despair gesture when she knew about the death of Osiris at the hands of Seth. In addition, the title of those ias priests in some statues refers to Isis: “I am the bald of Isis, the Big One” [16] ; « I am a bald one, excellent, favourite of Isis » [17].

Maybe for being assimilated to Isis, Hathor was a divinity very closed to Osiris in the Egyptian religion and it was very common to find her in images accompanying Osiris[18]. But her presence was not just in iconography; in celebrations in honour to Osiris during the month of Khoiak Hathor had also an important role. For instance, in the Middle Kingdom there was at the beginning of the month a sailing of Hathor. This goddess also appears six times accompanying Isis in the Festival of Sokaris (god assimilated to Osiris); her boat guides the other ones and the rest of goddesses are considered as different forms of Hathor[19].

Anyway, statues of ias priest show them always with an hathoric symbol; those men belonged to an Hathor’s clergy, who had to lack hair in the top of the head, apparently not voluntary; maybe in honour to the goddess, who suffered a mutilation with a similar result in her body.

"Bald of Hathor" Ameneminet. XIX Dynasty. Luxor Museum. Photo: www.eternalegypt.org

“Bald of Hathor” Ameneminet. XIX Dynasty. Luxor Museum. Photo: http://www.eternalegypt.org

Summing up, we have three main points related to Hathor and the hair:

  • Hathor related to the two ringlets wprty. These two lateral ringlets are like the two sky doors, which open and allow the deceased to go up to the celestial sphere and see the face of the lunar goddess, that is the moon, so the light in the darkness. The wprty are a grant of resurrection.
  • Hathor or Isis had a possible loss of hair (hnskt), as it was a mutilation, similar to that one suffered by Horus with his eye or Seth with his testicle.
  • Existence of a clergy of Hathor, whose requirement was the lack of hair on the top of the head (wpt), showing this way a relationship between Hathor and the lack or loss of hair.

[1] G. Posener, 1986, p. 113.

[2]S.A. Naguib, 1990, p. 13.

[3] According to some versions Seth attacked Thoth and cut off his arm. G. Posener,  1986, p. 111.

[4] Pap. Berlin 3027 9, 3-7; A. Ermann, 1901, p. 34. Although here the Egyptian word for plait is not Hnskt, but dbnt. Some scholars assure that there are representations of locks of hair with hathoric symbols of regeneration. E. Staehelin, 1978, p. 83.

[5] Plutarco, De Iside et Osiride, 14.

[6] J-J. Clère, 1995.

[7] J-J. Clère, 1995, p. 14.

[8] There is another Egyptian term for “bald”: f3k, used for the priesthood of Heliopolis. Actually it refers to the “shave”, not to the natural baldness. We have already written about the baldness and the lack of vegetation.

[9] J-J. Clère, 1995, p. 28.

[10] We read in the chapter 588 of the Coffin Texts and chapter 103 of the Book of Dead: “Speech for being at both sides of Hathor. I am one who has passed pure, a iAs priest. I will be Ihy in the Hathor’s entourage”.

[11] Pap. Bremner-Rhind, 2, 23.

[12] J-J. Clère, 1995, p. 30.

[13] Songs…, 2, 19.

[14] Songs…, 2, 20.

[15] Songs…, 2, 21.

[16] J-J. Clère, 1995, p. 76.

[17] J-J. Clère, 1995, p. 160.

[18] This assimilation comes from the Old Kingdom. Also in some cases Isis can appear as Re’s wife.

[19] Papyrus Bremner-Rhind ,19, 13 ff.

The two Ringlets wprty give Access to the Realm of the Dead.


The presence of hair in Ancient Egypt funerary belief is more than just the mane or the lock of hair. There are mentions in three chapters of the Coffin Texts to another shape of hair: the ringlets.
1) In chapter 107 of the Coffin Texts the deceased goes out to the day, that is, he comes back to light and to life; in that process we read:

“…praises are given; the double ringlet starts the jubilee

wprty starts the jubilee

 While the Duat gets open for me…”

There is undoubtedly a word game with wpw (open) and wprty; since wpt can be also the crown as the origin of the hair[1], the upper part of the head (and also the zenith of the sky). On the other hand, the Egyptian word wprty describes the lateral plait or ringlet that can be seen in children as a sign of youth[2]; it is also the side lock of the god Khonsu[3], the god of moon.

The god Khonsu with side lock. Relief from the funerary temple of Seti I in Dra Abu el-Naga. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The god Khonsu with side lock. Relief from the funerary temple of Seti I in Dra Abu el-Naga. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

D. Meeks translates it with a wider meaning as « lock of hair in the temple » [4]. Taking into account that the chapter relates how the deceased gets into the Duat, it makes sense to think about the two lateral ringlets of Hathor, the Egyptian goddess who receives the dead ones in the flank of the West Mountain, when they get into the realm of the dead, and she guides them in the night sky.

One of Hathor’s symbols of identity is her two big lateral ringlets framing her face[5]. Apparently this image of the goddess derives from a version of the myth of the “Eye of Re”.

The goddess Hathor with lateral ringlets. Column from the temple of Khnum in Elephantine Island. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The goddess Hathor with lateral ringlets. Column from the temple of Khnum in Elephantine Island. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

It relates how Hathor (also Tefnut) lived in the Nubian desert as a wild lioness, while her father Re ruled alone the mankind. This one commanded Shu and Thot the mission of looking for Hathor and bring her back to Egypt. When they were in Philae, Hathor immersed in the holy water of the first cataract and she became a very pretty woman “goddess of love, with pretty face and the hair on two big ringlets, bright eyes and firm breast”[6]. The legend of the Eye is the legend of the return: the return of the goddess from the desert, the flood after the winter, it is also the cyclic return of the agricultural prosperity[7].

2) In chapter 109 of the Coffin Texts we read:

“Open the Occident. Praises are given. The jubilee starts when Hathor gives the double ringlet”[8]

wprty starts the jubilee (109)

This chapter confirms the previous exposure, since the wprty are the two ringlets of Hathor. It is about the funerary goddess, the one who takes the deceased in the necropolis; she is “Hathor, the Mistress of the Occident, who rules the frontier of the desert”; she presents the two ringlets, Hathor, the lunar goddess which guides the dead in the darkness of the death.

Could we think that this passage is referring to a rite? Would it be ridiculous to think of a kind of priestess or representative of Hathor in the necropolis presenting two ringlets to the mummy? If so, and taking into consideration the assimilation of Hathor with Isis in Egyptian religion, could be that woman the mourner in the role of Isis? [9]. Thinking so, we would keep in the same line and with the mourners as the main persons of our research; we would not need to resort to a third woman, which, on the other hand, does not appear in any funerary scene.

3) In chapter 533 the dead becomes a scribe of Hathor; the text is long but just in a few sentences we find something very interesting for our subject:

“Become scribe of Hathor. I am the one who is glad before her horns, being arms united, the lector priest, scribe of god words…in the secret palace…

…my two ringlets get open

my ringlets open

 and the face of Hathor makes lighter to me. Hathor holds her arms out”

Once again we are facing Hathor as the goddess who takes the dead in, holding her arms out. When the two ringlets separate, as if they were curtains, the deceased discover her face, as if it was a window that lets the light come in; Hathor’s face gets lighter, like the moon in the dark sky.

For the expression “make lighter”, the scribe used the Egyptian word HD, which it is also used for terms related to « clear », « silver » or « moon » [10]. Separate the wprty ringlets means to see the moon; it is the access to the light after the darkness of the death. Hathor/moon allows the vision during the night; she illuminates, guides and takes the deceased in.

It is also interesting to notice how in chapter 44 of the Coffin Texts we can read: “Heaven’s doors open with your beauty, you go out and you see Hathor [11]. To get into the heaven and see the goddess, either the doors get open, or the wprty ringlets get separated. It seems both elements doors and ringlets could be assimilated and interchangeable. To separate the wprty as if they were curtains allows seeing the light (Hathor’s face / moon) in the middle of the night sky.


[1] Wb I, 297, 13. It is also the part of the head new born “opens” the mother for coming to life, so it is a part related to the rebirth.

[2] Wb I, 305, 6.

[3] We can read it in the propylon of the temple of Khonsu in Karnak. K. Sethe und O. Firchow, 1957, 67 78, 81.

[4] D. Meeks, 1977-79, II, p.94, 78.0951.

[5] According to S. Aufrère “Hathor dissimulait sa face ronde et plate d’Asiatique dans une épaisse coiffure de bédouine, aux inmenses volutes, formant la nuit de lapis-lazuli” (S. Aufrére, 1993, p. 17).

[6] H. Junker, 1911.

[7] E. Bresciani, 1993, p. 47.

[8] In some coffins the writing  wprt  is reduced tort.

[9] In the scene of resurrection in the tomb of Petosiris Isis on the left with the side lock is the “Lady of Rekhyt”, an epithet of Hathor (F. Daumas, 1960, pl. I).

[10] Wb III, 206-208

[11]CT I, 44.