Sunday, March 9, 2014

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

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The adventure awaits!

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

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