Tag Archives: moon

S3mt: Hair and Mourning, Evil and Udjat Eye.


The word s3mt appears repeatedly in the Egyptian funerary texts. It can be translated as lock of hair or mourning and it is closely linked to the idea of destruction of evil, the healing of the lunar eye and finally recovering the Udjat eye.

S3mt seems to refer to something related to the  mourning ritual and focused on the mourner’s hair. It could probably be considered as the hair that during the mourning rite women manipulated with a symbolic meaning, shaking it forwards (nwn sm3) or pulling it (nwn m swt).

Group of mourners, one of them making nwn m gesture of pulling her frontal lock of hair. Relief from the mastaba of Mereruka. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Mourner making nwn m gesture of pulling her front lock of hair. Relief from the mastaba of Mereruka. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Two women shaking their hairs. Relief from the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut in Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

Two women shaking their hair. Relief from the Red Chapel of Hatshepsut in Karnak. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

The funerary texts communicate that this s3mt was cut, using the Egyptian word Hsq, which meant “cut”, but also “behead”. And also we find evidence that the mourners were shaved at the end of the mourning rite.

The two Drty (two kites), offering nw vases to the four pools. Relief from the tomb of Pahery in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

The two Drty (two kites), offering nw vases with short hair to the four pools. Relief from the tomb of Pahery in el-Kab. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

Many documents assimilate the hair s3mt with the s3bwt snakes. These were malign animals that in Egyptian mythology beheaded the gods, so they were an image of the enemy and responsible of the death.

Beheading the snake as an image of the evil. The cat of Heliopolis killing the snake Apohis, enemy of Re. Painting from the tomb of Inerkha in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Beheading the snake as an image of the evil. The cat of Heliopolis killing the snake Apohis, enemy of Re. Painting from the tomb of Inerkha in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

In Egyptian funerary belief, it is necessary to restore the head for living again and annihilate those s3bwt. Making that the adversary is wiped out; the gods recover their heads and also their faculties for seeing, breathing and knowing.  In the funerary ambit, this will benefit the deceased, since cutting the s3mt will have the same effects on him: to recover the faculties that give him access to the new life.

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.

Cutting the s3mt is also closely related to the sacrifice and the figure of tekenu. This human victim, who goes back to ancient times in Egyptian history, has a double value, expiatory and propitiatory. In the first documents, one of the remarkable elements of the human victim is a front lock of hair. Once the human victim is replaced by an ox in the Opening of the Mouth ceremony again the lock of hair is one of the most important elements. So, this last one seems to be related with the evil elimination.

Sacrifice of an ox in the funerary ceremony. Painting from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Sacrifice of an ox in the funerary ceremony. Painting from the tomb of Menna in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

As cutting the s3mt is a way of removing the bad, it is also a way of recovering the Udjat eye as symbol of the final resurrection. Firstly Thoth spits on the damaged eye of Horus and this action is narrated in sacred texts as Thoth spitting on the hair sm3, afterwards the mourners are shaved or the s3mt is cut and the Udjat eye is offered to the deceased.

Eye of Horus, the falcon god. Detail from an image of Horus in the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Eye of Horus, the falcon god. Detail from an image of Horus in the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Summing up, to cut the s3mt supposes annihilate the enemy, the evil but also recover the Udjat eye and allow the final resurrection.

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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.

Hair is Darkness in Ancient Egypt.


All along this work we have seen that hair, in its different aspects, is an essential element in the Egyptian funerary ceremony. Its importance has two dimensions, ritual and symbolic and it is based on how the mourners treat it during the mourning rite and in the strong symbolic meaning of each hair aspect. Hair is a reviving tool, whose handling and symbolism helps in the deceased’s resurrection.

Mourners. Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

Mourners. Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire in Gourna. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín

Hair sm3, whose most precise meaning seems to be the hair that comes from the crown (so the hair from its first origin in the head) is directly related in the funerals with the nwn gesture.

The nwn gesture has two variations: nwn: to shake the hair forwards covering the face with it and nwn m: to pull the front lock of hair swt/syt[1].

Group of mourners, one of them making the nwn m gesture of pulling her frontal lock of hair. Relief from the mastaba of Mereruka in Saqqara. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Group of mourners, one of them making the nwn m gesture of pulling her front lock of hair. Relief from the mastaba of Mereruka in Saqqara. VI Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The nwn gesture has a very deep meaning, negative and positive.

HAIR IS DARKNESS.

In Ancient Egypt belief the hair sm3 means the darkness of the death, because the hair on the face stops the mourners seeing. With the nwn gesture the women reproduce the deceased’s blindness. It is also a way of alluding to the dead person’s lack of knowledge, because not to see means not to know, it is the state of unconsciousness typical of death. The negative nature of the nwn gesture comes not only from the darkness that causes the hair sm3, but also for the evilness that it symbolizes. The hair sm3 is assimilated to the damage done to the lunar eye. The hair sm3 in the Egyptian funerary belief is the image of the disaster that caused the blindness, the evil that Seth made to the eye of Horus, the lack of moon (so the light) in the night sky.

Mourning woman of Minnakht's tomb. www.1st-art-gallery.com

Mourning woman of Minnakht’s tomb. http://www.1st-art-gallery.com

While on earth the mourners have their hair over their faces, in the mythical sphere the Udjat eye has no vision, it cannot bright in the sky for illuminating the night. For recovering the brightness it is necessary to eliminate the evil, in the mythic dimension is when Thoth, spits on the sm3 and heals the lunar eye. The night has again its natural guide, the moon, and the moon is fundamental in all the regenerating process.


[1] In the Old Kingdom mourners pull the hair sm3; apparently it was later when the word sm3 is changed by the term for front lock of hair syt/swt.

Hair, Mourners and Moon in Ancient Egypt.


According to the Egyptian funerary texts the mourner/s crying close to the mummy were the representatives of Isis and Nephtys, in the iconography the inscription accompanying their/her image/s describes them/her as the deceased’s wife, widow or even servant; so stressing the wife’s role of Isis in the legend of Osiris.

They made a mourning ritual in some moment of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, not only as a sadness proof but also as means of getting the deceased’s rebirth. Thanks to the decoration in some New Kingdom tombs from Thebes we can discern that it happened when the ox was slaughtered.

Mourners over the corpse. Detail of the stele of Akbaou. XI Dynasty. Photo: www.commons-wikimedia.org

Mourners over the corpse. Detail of the stele of Akbaou. XI Dynasty. Photo: http://www.commons-wikimedia.org

From Egyptian funerary texts and from iconography the mourning ritual consisted in shaking hair and/or pulling hair towards the corpse. And presumably it ended with the cut of that shaken and/or pulled hair, which in the mythic sphere coincided with the offering of the Udjat eye to the deceased as a grant of his final resurrection.

At this “lunar” point the presence of two women in the rebirth process of the dead makes much sense. The moon is closely related to women, since it regularizes the menstrual cycle[1]. Scholar R. Briffault considered that in ancient Egypt women’s fertility depended on the moon and he assures the existence of a Theban inscription saying that women conceived thanks to the moon[2].  That point of view would give all the sense to the Osiris’ lunar rebirth, since thanks to it Isis could conceive Horus.

That would also explain why the Egyptian word for moon was masculine (iaH iah moon). According to R. Briffault lunar goddesses become prominent in advanced periods of the culture, especially with the agriculture development[3].  It is a star related also with the magical power of women[4], as the magic practiced by Isis and Nephtys over the mummy to contribute to the Osiris’ resurrection. Because in the primitive belief the moon’s attributes are character and aptitudes of women[5], the star portrays the women’s nature, so, as reflect of the sun, the moon is the feminine complement of the king of stars, which in the mythic sphere was Hathor[6].

Bronze statue of Osiris in his lunar facet. Late Period. Photo: www.metmuseum.org

Bronze statue of Osiris in his lunar facet. Late Period. Photo: http://www.metmuseum.org

At this point it goes without saying the important role of this goddess in the lunar resurrection. But it helps in understanding the function of the two mourners during the mourning rite. Isis and Nephtys appear as the leading performers in the Songs of Isis and Nephtys, where the lector priest barely takes part; that ritual was something just made by women. The lunar rebirth of the deceased seems to be in large part a responsibility of the two mourners impersonating Isis and Nepthys, maybe because this relationship of women with the moon as the star that regulates their fertility and their magic. They shaked or pulled their hair, which we have already seen it was related to the moon and finally Osiris/ the deceased comes back to life when he receives the Udjat eye, the full moon. Osiris/the deceased revives as a masculine moon, but for getting that state he needs the feminine aspect of the star[7].


[1] R. Briffault, 1974, p. 293.

[2] R. Briffault, 1974, p. 294.

[3] R. Briffault, 1974, p. 295.

[4] R. Briffault, 1974, p. 296.

[5] R. Briffault, 1974, p. 307.

[6] H. Kees, 1956, p. 210.

[7] For some scholars the Egyptian word for moon could remember the bisexuality in the creation of the world (S.Ratié, 1984, p. 179)

Cutting the s3mt, beheading the Enemy.


S3mt was for Egyptians apparently something more than just “mourning”. What about that s3mt that could be cut, which was related to snake uraeus, which appears in a moment of restoring some parts of the mummy and which was also an offer to the deceased? In chapters 532 and 640 of Coffin Texts the s3mt is cut and also tied around the dead one, when his neck and head are also restored. Do we have any other documents where to find more clues?

Chapter 50 of Book of the Dead was the heir of the chapter 640 of the Coffin Texts and belongs to a group of chapters related to the regeneration of the corpse. In a Ptolemaic version in the Egyptian Museum in Turin we can read: Formula for not entering the butchering hall of the god. Speech said by Osiris, alive and justified: my vertebrae are united in my nape by them, the Ennead. My vertebrae are united in my nape (bis) in the sky and on earth by Re, in that day of reinforce and reconstitute the exhausted ones[1]  over the two legs, in that day of cutting the necks[2]. The vertebrae in the nape are united by Seth with his power, when[3] there was no disturbance”.

But in some other versions of the same chapter we read a very similar text to that one of the Middle Kingdom: “…fours knots have been tied around me by the sky’s guardian, he has fixed a knot to the dead ones over the legs in that day of cutting the lock of hair s3mt….”

At this point it is important to notice that the writing for the Egyptian word nHbwt (necks) had the determinative of hair:neck. It seems that cutting the lock of hair s3mt is interchangeable with cutting the necks. So there was in ancient Egyptian belief assimilation between both hair and necks, which would mean that cutting the necks, would be the same act as cutting the s3mt.

Hair and necks, what can that have to do with the snakes? In this regards it is interesting J.F. Borghouts comment about chapter 532 of the Coffin Texts where we have already read about a Heliopolitan rite: “…Is tied to me a lock of hair in Heliopolis, the day of cutting the lock s3mt” [4]. J. F. Borghouts focus on the beginning of the passage: “Formula for placing a man’s head in the necropolis…” The passage relates how the deceased receives his head and his neck at the same time that the gods receive their heads, and that action happens the same day that the s3bwt snakes (or multi colour snakes) were expelled from Heliopolis, because they caused the gods to lose their heads[5]. The s3bwt snakes where the enemies of the Sun god because they injured the gods and let them headless. We would be facing an archetype “rite of defeating the evil one”, where the Demiurge announces: “I have appeased the Heliopolis’ disturbance after the judgement, I have restored the heads to those ones who had them not, and I have finished the mourning in this country” [6].

Beheading the snake as an image of the evil. The cat of Heliopolis killing the snake Apohis, enemy of Re. Painting from the tomb of Inerkha in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: www.osirisnet.net

Beheading the snake as an image of the evil. The cat of Heliopolis killing the snake Apohis, enemy of Re. Painting from the tomb of Inerkha in Deir el-Medina. XIX Dynasty. Photo: http://www.osirisnet.net

The head is the central of the body for all senses, not having head means not having faculties of perception and it is also a lack of identity. In Egyptian funerary belief, the lack of head is, not only the obvious lack of life, it is also the impossibility of resurrection. To restore the head is a step to the new life, since thanks to it the deceased will have again the faculty of breathing, seeing, listening[7]. In line with that is the Egyptian union between headless Osiris and the invisibility of the new moon[8]; the disappearance of the head is like the disappearance of the moon, it is the darkness, and so, it is the death. When a human being dyes he gets into a period of shadows, which fades gradually at the same time of the funerary rites. Among these rites here we need to mention the put of the funerary mask, which was a head’s substitute; with it the dead one will have again access to light, to the new life.

There is a stela found in Abydos and dating from the reign of Ramses VI where we can read: Oh! Horus, I have spitted over your eye, after it was removed by your aggressor…Oh! Isis and Nephtys, I make bring[9] to you your heads, I have put[10] your napes for you in this night of cutting[11] the heads (?) of s3bwt snakes in front of Letopolis…”[12] The text reminds to the former chapters we have already seen about the healing of the damaged lunar eye and the shaving of the two mourners.

The healing of the Udjat eye happens at the same time of the gods’ heads restoring and the revenge over the s3bwt snakes. And cutting the s3mt could be the same as cutting the s3bwt.

According to J. F. Borghouts, the parallel between s3mt and s3bwt could be caused by a deformation in the writing with the passage of the time. But so many times repeating the expression “cutting the s3mt” would maybe respond more to assimilation with “cutting the s3bwt” than just a mistake in the writing. The result would be in line with our research: the lock of hair s3mt would be identified the the s3bwt snakes as a negative element that needs to be eliminated. So, to cut the s3mt would symbolize a sacrifice of a dangerous animal. The hymn to Sobek in Ramesseum Papyrus says:

“Welcome in peace, lord of peace!

Your fury has been eliminated; your anger has passed…

Your s3mt is cut” [13].

Sobek-hymn

 The Egyptian verb whs was used for “cutting hair”, but also for “sacrificing enemies” [14], and that put in the same level to cut the lock of hair s3mt and to sacrifice an adversary. Hair, enemy and sacrifice are already familiar concepts to us.

Beheading the enemies of Osiris. Paiting from the tomb of Tutmosis III in the Valley of the Kings. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Beheading the enemies of Osiris. Painting from the tomb of Tutmosis III in the Valley of the Kings. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Let’s compile some ideas to give shape to our post:

  • The day of shaving the mourners is the day of giving the Udjat eye.
  • To equip with a lock of hair s3mt appears at the same time of shaving the i3rty of Sokaris.
  • The s3mt is cut when the deceased is still blind/dead and after that action he has access to light/new life.
  • To spit over the damaged eye of Horus for healing it, to restore the gods’ heads and napes and to cut the heads of the s3bwt snakes, the enemies, happened together.

Summing up, we find four elements together in the deceased’s regeneration:

  1. Slaughter the s3bwt snakes as the evil ones.
  2. Cut the s3mt
  3. Restore the heads
  4. Recover the Udjat eye.

The two first ones are similar actions for eliminating the evil and after them the two last ones are actions which meant the perception and the access to light, so the deceased’s resurrection.


[1] The dead ones.

[2] chapter 50 BD

[3] From XVIII Dynasty on, preposition tp could have a temporal sense.

[4] We have seen this chapter in the first paragraph about the lock of hair s3mt.

[5] J. F. Borghouts, 1970, p. 73.

[6] Urk. VI, 115, 9-15 (D. Meeks, 1991, p. 6. The Egyptians thought that Horus from Letopolis was the one who restored the gods’ heads. The day commemorating that was a festivity in Heliopolis (J.F. Borghouts, 1970, p. 206)

[7] D. Meeks, 1991, p. 6.

[8] D. Meeks, 1991, p. 8

[9] siar means “make go up”, in the sense of “bring” or “give” (Wb IV, 32, 10)

[10] smn means “join”, “bind”, “put” limbs that have been separated (Wb IV, 132, 20)

[11] The generic meaning of sn es “decapitate” (Wb III, 457, 17).

[12] KRI VI, p.24, 3-4; M.Korostovtsev, 1947, pp. 155-173.

[13] A. Gardiner, 1957, p. 46.

[14] Wb I, 351, 14.

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.

The Hair sm3 and the Healing of the lunar Eye in Ancient Egypt. Part I: Chapters in Coffin Texts.


We have seen how the reading of the Coffin Texts shows many different aspects of hair related to renovating practices or regenerating symbols. The main symbol of renovation, resurrection and regeneration in Egyptian religion was the Udjat eye. The eye of Horus, injured during the fight against Seth, was identified with the moon, and the process of the increasing from crescent to full moon was assimilated with the combat between both gods.

Eye of Horus, the falcon god. Detail from an image of Horus in the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

Eye of Horus, the falcon god. Detail from an image of Horus in the tomb of Roy in Dra Abu el-Naga. XVIII Dynasty. Photo: Mª Rosa Valdesogo Martín.

The full moon was the evidence of final victory of Horus over Osiris’s murderer, which finished with the resurrection of Osiris as king of the Hereafter.

Many chapters of the Coffin Texts mention the hair sm3 in an Osiris context of healing. Let’s have a look of each and deduce some ideas:

  • Chapter 133:

“Those ones who are in their temples they blink and make the Great One. The Great One belongs to me; the eye of the Great One belongs to me. I have spitted[1] over the hair sm3 of Sw[2] for his healing.

chapter 133

 Everything has been given to me, I feel triumphant, and I stand up triumphant. I have created all my family, for whom I have spoken. I am Re, the sun’s father”

  • Chapter 164:

“…I treat the great god because of his harm

Which one is the suffering of the great god?

It is his head, his shoulder and his leg.

I came for spitting in his shoulder, for refreshing the hair sm3

chapter 164

And for healing the two legs of the great god…”

  • Chapter 610:

« … This N. has spitted over the hair sm3 of Atum, he has refreshed Hdd[3]

chapter 610

 Shu and Thoth, beloved, being together behind the great god, Shu and the hair sm3…this N, has spitted (over) the hair sm3, this N has refreshed his vertebra. It is a medicine inside the body of this N…[4] »

  • Chapter 667:

« …He has spitted (over) the hair sm3

chapter 667

He carries a leg and he gives breath to who does not have. This N has brought his ba soul; his has taken his power and magic ».

  • Chapter 335:

“…I have recovered the eye after it was damaged the night of the combat between the Two Fellows[5]. I have raised the hair from the Udjat eye when he was furious

chapter 335

Who raises the hair from the Udjat eye? Who is the Udjat eye in his moment of anger?

It is the right eye of Re and Thoth is the one who raises the hair from it… »

chapter335thoth

 We find a common denominator: the hair, mainly sm3, but in one case also Sni, is linked somehow to the Udjat eye, it gets involved in fight and suffers damage; in the mythic sphere this hair is treated and healed with a spit.

 


[1] iw sDm.n.f is a narrative tense and it stress a very important fact of the story.

[2] According to Barguet, it is the city of Seth in the Heracleopolitan nome (P. Barguet, 1986, p. 256, n. 6)

[3] “The attacked one”, eye of Horus?

[4] Healing properties of saliva.

[5] Horus and Seth.