Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Enigmatic Symbols of Ancient Egypt - Part I

The All Seeing-Eye

The All Seeing-Eye is one of the most recognizable symbols of ancient Egypt. It is known by many other names as well: The Eye of Horus, the Left Eye of Ra, Wadjet, and the Lady of Flame to name just a few.
How can this one symbol stand for so many different things, you ask? What could Horus, the golden falcon, have in common with Wadjet, the cobra goddess of Lower Egypt? And what does a cobra have to do with the All Seeing-Eye?
To start, Wadjet is also known as Udjat, Uadjet, Wedjoyet, Edjo, and Uto. But that’s not all, there’s more. . . . Wadji means the green one, and this has some correlation with Osiris, the god of the underworld. But wait . . . it gets better! To add to the confusion, this cobra goddess is also associated with Bastet, the cat goddess; Sekhmet, the lioness (Hathor’s alter ego when she’s not the cow); Tefnut, the goddess of moisture; and Mut, the mother goddess of the sky.

How can all of these different gods relate to the All Seeing-Eye? 
Our first step to understanding this symbol is to start with the language. Let’s start with Wadjet, the Egyptian “iaret,” means “risen one.” The cobra goddess was also called the Opener of the Way, and her enigmatic symbol, the All Seeing-Eye, was always painted on the part of the sarcophagus facing east.

        Taking a deeper look at this goddess, we also find that Wadjet is one of the earlier goddesses of ancient Egypt, a primordial goddess, meaning she existed from the beginning. In fact, this goddess was so important to the ancient Egyptians that her image of a cobra wrapped around the sun disk is known as the Uraeus
and holds a significant place in the symbols of ancient Egypt. Even the Pharaoh, seen as a living god himself and son of the sun god, Ra, was recognized only by wearing the cobra which adorned the crown as a sign of legitimacy.

Taking a look at the times that the festivals regarding the Lady of Flame were celebrated is also most illuminating. The Going Forth of Wadjet, an ancient festival, was practiced on December 25th.. The annual celebration for Wadjet was also held on April 21st, and yet again during the Summer Solstice. She was also assigned the fifth hour of the fifth day of the moon. I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to see a strong association with the goddess Wadjet and the ancient Egyptian’s understanding of the Heavens.
In order to shed further light we must look at the other gods and goddesses that are linked to this symbol. The tale of Horus being attacked and his eyes torn out by his uncle, Seth, the god of war, although gruesome, gets us even closer to the true meaning of the symbol. You see Seth had already killed his brother, Osiris, Horus’s father, because Seth coveted the throne. When Horus sought revenge, he, too, found himself at death’s door. He was nursed back to health by his mother, Isis, and his sister/wife, Hathor. His sight wasn’t restored, however, until Ra gifted him with his own left eye, the Eye of Ra.
Ah-ha! Ra’s right eye was known as the sun itself and his left eye the moon. And that is why the All Seeing-Eye, the Eye of Horus, is also called the Eye of the Moon.

     We can see now how the All Seeing-Eye could also be called the Lady of the Flame because it lights up the night sky, but what does this have to do with a cobra goddess?

Before I answer that, let me connect a few more dots. As it is, the moon lights the darkness of night, and as such it holds much power in the Duat, the Egyptian underworld. This is also its connection to green. Osiris is the God of the Underworld, and his resurrection was seen in correlation with the Nile and its effect on the land. He was depicted with green skin, not for death as one might assume, but for the fertile, lush, green growth that comes from the inundation of the Nile and the subsequent resurrection of the land.
The greenish-blue color may also be a clue. The lapis lazuli that the Egyptians so revered was a symbol of water and the heavens. This is an association to Tefnut, the goddess of moisture, and Mut, the mother goddess and goddess of the sky. We all know it is the moon that creates the tides, but this still doesn’t answer how a snake could be equated with the moon.

     In order to answer this, I shall share with you one of the secrets that is within my book, Treasure of Egypt. Wadjet was considered a primordial being from the beginning of time because her image was etched onto one of the greatest symbols of mankind, one that has been here from the beginning, the face of the moon itself.

Ruling from her mighty perch in the heavens above us is Wadjet, the All Seeing-Eye and the Opener of the Way, leading us into the night as she rises up in the east to guide us through the Amduat.


. . . But she is not alone.

You can read more about the All Seeing-Eye and the ancient gods of Egypt in my book, Treasure of Egypt, the first book in the Treasure of the Ancients series. Discover for yourself the origins of the Sphinx itself and several unknown or misidentified hieroglyphs while reading a tale sure to bring out a smile. :O)
- Author Barbara Ivie Green 

Thank you for your readership.

To read the first chapter click here:

To view Treasure of Egypt's Amazon book page and start reading today!
For click here
For click here 
The adventure awaits! 

The Enigmatic Symbols of Ancient Egypt- Part II

The Origins of the Sphinx

One of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world is that of the origins of the Great Sphinx of Giza. Even in antiquity, the Sphinx, one of the most recognizable symbols of ancient Egypt, was under a veil of secrecy.  Where did the image of the half beast - half woman come from, and why is there so much mystery surrounding her? In the original story of the Sphinx that guards Memphis, she has the form of a half lion - half woman who also has the tail of a serpent. This may make a little more sense at the conclusion of this article, but before I share my discovery, let us first take a look at what we know about this unusual goddess.
First, the word Sphinx actually comes from the Greek language. This is not so unusual as there was much trade between the two cultures going back into antiquity, not to mention the Ptolemaic Dynasty. To the ancient Egyptians, however, this fearsome goddess who lies at the foot of the necropolis was known as Sekhmet, the lioness who guards the entrance to the Amduat, the ancient Egyptian underworld.

To understand Sekhmet is to understand all of who she was to the ancient Egyptians. This lioness held a significant place of honor in the ancient Egyptian Parthenon. She was not only the guardian of the entrance to the Egyptian underworld, but also Hathor, the daughter of Ra. Known as The Eye of Ra and Lady of the West – the land of the dead, and worshiped as a funerary goddess particularly in Thebes, she is synonymous with Isis, holding the same power, but in other tales she is the daughter of Isis. Hathor was depicted as a cow goddess, wearing the horns or fertility in her benevolent form, but in her aggressive form she was Sekhmet, the lioness. 
Most of the statues of Sekhmet are of a lion-faced woman. This does make me wonder why the Great Sphinx wears a decidedly human one and possibly a male one at that. Could it be that a different face originally adorned the Great Sphinx of Giza? 
It has long been a point of speculation as to what face the Sphinx originally wore and whose face is it that it currently wears? Is it the Pharaoh Tuthmosis IV’s visage that we look upon? As a young man he heard the voice of the Sphinx in a dream while he napped beneath the exposed head and cleared away the sand so that he could rule one day. Or is it Djedefre, son of the Pharaoh Khufu, who built the Great Pyramid? This young Pharaoh ruled only for a short period of time before he died and his brother, Khafre, assumed the title and built the other large pyramid on the Giza Plateau.
            We know that during times of economic struggle that it was common for Pharaohs to recycle many of the statues, carving their own likenesses into them. Could this have happened? Did the Pharaoh Djedefre die too early in his reign to have a completed pyramid? Was the face of the Sphinx then retooled in his image?

Regardless of the face that now adorns the Sphinx, the practice of re-carving the image does not account for the steep slant of the forehead when compared to these Pharaohs’ other statues, an error that the ancient artisans would not have made on purpose.
The real controversy in regards to the head of the Sphinx is that it could be much older than either of these Pharaohs whose image it may now bare. There is some evidence to suggest that two of the temples that sit below the Sphinx, known as the Valley Temple and what remains of the Old Sphinx Temple, were built long before the pyramids. One argument for this is that the stone footings placed along the base of these buildings are much larger and unlike other structures of the same size built at that time. The Sphinx Temple was also constructed to have a nice view of the Sphinx, another indication that it existed before the Temple. There is also another strange anomaly about them. The stone walls are not adorned or decorated with hieroglyphs like the walls inside other temples built in that same period.
We can date part of the Sphinx. In the Fourth Dynasty, stones quarried from around the body of the Sphinx were used to build the pyramids that sit behind it. The head of the Sphinx, however, remains an enigma. It was most likely exposed long before the building of the pyramids on the Giza Plateau as the weathering of the stones does not match. True, it is of a harder deposit, but the head was exposed in the landscape not only in the tale of Thutmose but again when Napoleon and his group of scientists and artisans came upon it in 1800.  It is only the body that was covered for centuries and most likely the head was always above the ever-shifting sands.
It is easy to see that like many of the rock formations that dot the landscape in the desert, that also take the form of an animal, that the head of the lioness was already a prominent outcropping and was highly revered long before Amenhotep chose the area for the building of the pyramids. In fact, it may very well be because of the sacred spot it occupied that the famous architect chose the spot.
So how old could it be? There is an account in the ancient stories that tells us that all of the Pharoahs of Egypt were crowned in a ceremony held at this site. The Sphinx is known as the goddess that selected the new Pharaoh. In a procession that started in Memphis they approached the Sphinx from the Nile and on to Luxor in a coronation that transformed the Pharaoh from a man into a living god by his receiving the royal ka, or soul. What was it about this area that made it so auspicious that every Pharaoh was both taken there at the beginning of his reign and at his death?  The Opening of the Mouth ceremony also took place at the Valley Temple, preparing the Pharaoh after death for his journey through Amduat. This has also lead to speculation that the original face was that of Anubis, the god of embalming. So important was the site that Napoleon, Alexander the Great, and Cleopatra made sure to stand before its giant paws to claim their right to rule.
The other physical detail about the Great Sphinx that should not be overlooked is the folded headdress, or nemes, which adorns the megalith. It is the head covering worn by Shu, the god of the sky, atmosphere, light, and wind. He, too, is depicted as a lion along with his mate Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. The gold and dark blue stripes that decorate this particular headdress are associated with the day and night and were worn only by the Pharaoh as a symbol of power. Scientists have even found that the striped nemes which adorns the Sphinx was once painted gold and blue.
Looking further into the mythology surrounding this goddess gives us even more clues as to who she really was. One of the ancient stories tells of Ra calling upon Sekhmet to reap his vengeance on man for attempting to overthrow him. The lioness turned the fields to blood in her efforts, and it wasn’t until Ra took pity on man that he tried to pacify her blood lust with mead dyed by red ochre. Hathor, her human counterpart, also wears a red disk on her head between the horns of fertility.
A little known fact about ancient Egypt is that each area had its own version of the creation myth and a different set of gods that they revered. Powerful city states like Memphis and Thebes produced many of the Pharaohs that ruled Egypt, and it was the gods of these cities that were worshiped as the chief gods of ancient Egypt. These prominent gods eventually merged forming unions such as Amun-Ra.
Because of the amalgamation of the gods and goddesses in different areas, Hathor was known sometimes as the sister/wife to Horus, and in other accounts as his mother. In some tales she is the daughter of Isis and Osiris, yet still in other stories she is the mother of Ra. In poetry and at her temples in Dendera she was referred to as the Golden One and the Lady of Heaven. As Sekhmet she was thought to be a bringer of plague (no doubt due to the wiping out of mankind thing) and as such she became the goddess of medicine as the people tried to placate her. There are also magical connections. Statuary of her standing with the head of a lioness and the body of a woman holding magical serpent wands have been found in tombs. In Thebes the lion headed Goddess of the West, Amaunet, was the consort of Ptah, the Memphite god of the underworld. She was a primordial goddess, and part of the Ogdoad.

How do all of these various versions of Sekhmet relate to the Sphinx you ask?  It is time I think to unveil my discovery of the true origins of the Sphinx. Sekhmet, the guardian of the Amduat rules the sky from her mighty perch. Her image etched on the moon as it sets in the West is why she is known as the Lady of the West. To see her true image and the one that the Great Sphinx may have originally worn one must gaze up at the moon.
 It is Sekhmet’s image that rules the night as the moon sets.
. . . But she is not alone.

The images of the moon show the Sphinx transform into the very image of what she may have looked like originally.
To learn more about who else claims a place on this lofty throne please see the article entitled “The Enigmatic Symbols of Ancient Egypt – The All-Seeing Eye” below.
You can see now why the God of the Sky and the Sphinx have so much in common. The moon’s unique ability to be visible in both the day and the night sky explains why wearing Shu’s headdress with its strong blue and gold stripes is fitting.
This  also answers one of the perplexing questions surrounding the parentage of Khonsu, the lunar deity of Thebes. His father was Amun, but the contradictions regarding his mother are numerous.  In some tales she is Mut the sky goddess, in others the lion-headed goddess of the West, Amaunet, and in others still she is Wadjet, the cobra goddess.  Those of you who read the first part of the Enigmatic Symbols of Ancient Egypt will see the correlation of Wadjet and the Sphinx being linked in this manner and also the Sphinx in Memphis’s serpent-like tail.
It should also be noted that the red disk that Hathor/Sekhmet wears which rests between the horns of fertility is not the sun it has been confused with, but something else entirely.
Please join me next month when I  discuss the unknown or misidentified hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt.
                                                        Author -Barbara Ivie Green

You can read more about the Sphinx and the ancient gods of Egypt in my book, Treasure of Egypt, the first book in the Treasure of the Ancients series by clicking the book.

Thank you for your readership.
To read the first chapter click here:
 Treasure of Egypt Sneak Peek

To view Treasure of Egypt's Amazon book page and start reading today!
For click here
For click here 
The adventure awaits!

The Enigmatic Symbols of Ancient Egypt Part III

The misidentified symbols of Ancient Egypt

Some of the greatest misinterpretations of the ancient hieroglyphic symbols concern those representing the moon. Previously, I have explained the origins of the Sphinx and the All-Seeing Eye as they pertain to the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs.

I discovered that there were several additional symbols which had seemingly been overlooked. The heavens played a large part in the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs, yet the moon and its symbols seemed scant, at best. To be one of the largest heavenly bodies, it has been largely ignored. One of its iconic symbols, that of the crescent, was used only rarely. The moon, it seems, was sadly neglected, or was it?
While researching the origins of the Sphinx and the All-Seeing Eye, it came to my attention that several symbols had been mistaken for other things, especially those that linked the role of the mother goddess to the ancient Egyptian’s belief in the afterlife.

The moon has symbolized the feminine in almost all of the world’s various ancient religions and mythologies, so why, then, is it so rare to run across it in the ancient Egyptian writings?
The five-pointed star, the Egyptian symbol of the priesthood (sacred knowledge) and adoration is shown here with half and full crescents above it. These symbols represented the half and full months on the lunar calendar.

And yet another, with what is thought to be the sun cradled within the moon’s embrace, although this too I think could depict a new moon, eclipse, or lunar node.

Were these slim depictions, used sparsely at best, all that the moon merited?
In the year 391 A.D., Emperor Theodosius banned pagan rites throughout the Roman Empire and closed the non-Christian temples. Thus began a systematic purging of the ancient beliefs within all of the conquered lands. The lengths that the Roman Catholic Church went to in order to suppress these religions have been well-documented. Because of this, the Egyptian hieroglyphs remained silent until Jean–Francois Champollion deciphered the famous stone from Rosetta. Not all the symbols came to light, however. In 1827, when Champollion went to Egypt as part of the Franco-Tuscan Expedition, he was under an edict not to expose anything that may have been in conflict with the Church’s teachings at that time.
Not only did he not translate the dates on the Wall of Kings, but these restrictions also caused some rather unique labeling of some of the Egyptian symbols. It is my belief that Jean-Francois knew exactly what most of these hieroglyphs actually represented (due to the rather comical misidentification of some). Not wanting to open that can of worms, I believe he worked around them so as not to bring attention to something the Roman Catholic Church had so long tried to suppress, especially during a time of renewed interest in everything Egyptian.

Take the symbol of a half-circle, for instance. This hieroglyph represents the sound “T”. Champollion described this symbol as being a bun, and it is used to denote the feminine, or daughter. Could it be that this is, in fact, a half-moon?
Were any other symbols of the moon overlooked? The rising sun had a symbol that was very close to it. Why was this not a hot bun?

To better understand the ancient Egyptians’ hieroglyphic writing, we need to understand that the symbols not only phonetically, but also pictorially, represented a word. For instance, the symbol for life is the ankh.

The oval on the top represents woman, and the stem at the bottom man. The cross expresses the union of the two. Thus, it is man and woman together creating life.

The word itself is spelled by using the symbol “N”, a zigzag line, and a round circle with lines across it, which sounds like “kh”. Together, they not only phonetically sounded out the word “n-kh”, or ankh, but they also pictorially held meaning for the symbol of life.

The jagged line “N” represents water, in and of itself life-giving. The Nile’s sacred waters gave life to the land. The terms ebb and flow are still used today to describe life.

This symbol, a circle with lines running through it, is one that has been misidentified. When Jean-Francois Champollion translated the ancient symbols, he described it as being a ball of string, or a placenta. Oddly enough, the second suggestion is more correct, as far as its association with life is concerned.
This ball of string, however, represents something much larger. It does, in fact, depict the moon in all its phases.

The new moon is symbolic of birth, the waxing of the moon, youth. A full moon, our maturity, and the waning of the moon, our old age and eventual death, followed by rebirth. This connection with resurrection is why I believe its true meaning has been lost for so long. In many ancient cultures, the goddesses were worshipped for this most auspicious gift that included not only birth but also rebirth. This symbol of the striped ball is also quite prominent and is used in many cartouches, quite the honor for a little “ball of string”, wouldn’t you say?

There is one more symbol of the moon that illustrates the true meaning of the misidentified symbol above, the waning moon.

 I think it’s easy to see the similarities between the “placenta” above and this half-ball of string . . . I mean, waning moon.

Another symbol whose ties to the moon have been misidentified is the horns of fertility around the sun disc.

There is a tale of Seth killing his brother Osiris and scattering the pieces of his body. Isis, his sister/wife, gathered the pieces and, with the aid of Anubis, wrapped his body back together, missing only one unfortunate member, which she fashioned herself. Through her magic, Isis brought her husband back to life and was able to become pregnant with Horus.

The story illustrates the goddess’s role in the resurrection of the dead, which leads to yet another symbol that has been misidentified. The horns of fertility wrapped around the Uraeus, a symbol of royalty, was worn by Isis and Hathor, as well as the head priestess of Amun.
As pointed out in Parts One and Two of the Enigmatic Symbols of Egypt article series, Isis and Hathor share much the same place in the Egyptian Parthenon.
Understanding the many feminine associations with the moon—fertility; birth and rebirth; the goddess Wadjet and her connection with the Uraeus and the moon—it is easy to see that there could be a link of the disc to the harvest moon, full, ripe and potent. Yet another association of the disc within the horns may also be that of a comet. What is most definitely certain is that it is not the sun as has been postulated

To read more about the symbols of ancient Egypt, or to just enjoy a humorous action adventure/romantic comedy that has been described as being much like the new versions of the movies Sherlock Holmes, The Mummy (without the walking dead guy), and Indiana Jones, please click on the book.

-Author Barbara Ivie Green

Thank you for your readership.
To read the first chapter click here:
 Treasure of Egypt Sneak Peek

To view Treasure of Egypt's Amazon book page and start reading today!
For click here
For click here 
The adventure awaits!

To read the previous articles on The Enigmatic Symbols of Egypt, click below:

The Enigmatic Symbols of Ancient Egypt, Part IV

The lost symbol of the Sun 

and the Wings of Isis

The true identity of this ancient symbol, used to denote the regnal years of the king, has become lost over the years. I know what you are thinking . . . it’s obviously a chocolate chip cookie. Hahaha! Actually, it is thought to be a threshing floor, but I believe this too is incorrect.

This hieroglyphic is used to denote the regnal year. In Ancient Egypt, time was kept by recording the years the pharaohs ruled. A ∩ denotes ten years, while a straight line I indicates one. A rule of twenty eight years would look like this.

It also phonetically represents the sound sp, or, in this case, rnpt-sp (regnal year).

So why is threshing floor an incorrect interpretation? Although the pharaoh was tied to the prosperity of the land, and this does make a connection with the harvest – and, accordingly, the threshing floor – somewhat believable, this symbol is actually associated with time, which IS a designation that the sun and its symbols DO represent.

Take the hieroglyphic phrase for “repeatedly”

or the one for “eternity”

or for “daily course”



etc, etc, etc. You get the picture. :O)

All of these have two things in common. The sun symbol , Ra, and a reference to time.

Now take the phrase for “a moment”

and “never”

(the arms represent the negative meaning “never will there be a moment”.)

These symbols represent time as well, casting new light upon what this symbol actually is.

Just as Ra is representing one day, I believe the speckled disc in question represents the solar calendar, with each dot representing the years in the lunar cycle.

So why was the meaning behind this disc lost to antiquity? I came across something while researching my book Treasure of Egypt that may answer that puzzling question. Perhaps it was, in part, due to an expungement long ago. Much like the moon’s symbols being misidentified due to religious controversy, it appears as if the speckled disc fell out of favor and was rarely used by the Priests of Amun after the rein of Pharaoh Akhenaten.

If you look, you will find the symbol among many of the writings chiseled into the Telatat blocks from the Aten Temple that was dismantled after the pharaoh’s death. So why was it used so prodigiously during Akhenaten’s reign, yet was almost strictly relegated to denote the regnal year henceforth?

I believe it had much to do with the Heretic King’s closing of the Temples of Amun during his reign and the subsequent efforts of the priests to wipe out the symbols Akhenaten had used to promote his worship of the sun after his death. This once auspicious symbol of the sun has been reduced to what is now thought to be a threshing floor.

The Wings of Isis

There are many sun symbols in the ancient hieroglyphs.

The aten above – a disc with long, streaming rays, the circle with a dot in the middle that represents Ra the sun god, and even Khafre the dung beetle – in a strange association where life springs forth from decay – represent the rebirth of the newly risen sun and the idea of becoming.

It should be noted, however, that the hieroglyphs including the dung beetle are also associated with being or becoming, and not time.

. . . BUT I do not believe that the Wings of Isis is among the symbols that refer to the sun. If you have read my book or the previous articles you know that both Isis and Hathor were associated with rebirth and the moon – not the sun. Another reason that this harvest moon may have been confused with the sun is the moon’s ability to travel across both the day and night skies.

Thank you for your readership.
To read the first chapter click here:
 Treasure of Egypt Sneak Peek

To view Treasure of Egypt's Amazon book page and start reading today!
For click here
For click here 
The adventure awaits!

To read the previous articles on The Enigmatic Symbols of Egypt, click below: