The Westcar Papyrus is an ancient Egyptian papyrus thought to date to the Hyksos period (circa 18th to 16th century BCE). The collection of stories centres around the IVth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu (aka Cheops) and a series of wonders or acts of magic performed by various priests. The stories have been given the title “King Cheops and the magicians”. In this paper, I review three of the stories within the Westcar Papyrus (The Wonder of Djadjaemankh, Djedi the magician and Ruddjedet gives birth) and seek to:
1.Establish that the stories are using elements of mythological storytelling to convey astronomical data;
2. Offer a new understanding of what Khufu seeks for his horizon or Pyramid through a new translation of a critical phrase within the story of Djedi; and
3. Establish a date based on the astronomical data encoded within the stories that informs us when Khufu was designing his Pyramid.
I make extensive use of the translations provided by Nederhof and all quotes from the stories in this paper are attributable to Nederhof unless otherwise specified.
To establish that the stories of the Westcar Papyrus are using elements of mythological storytelling, first I will seek to clarify what I mean by mythological storytelling. Kelly has studied indigenous knowledge systems and found that across a range of pre-literate cultures that mythological storytelling aids in the memorialisation of knowledge:
“The Rhetorica ad Herennium advises its orators that to make information most memorable, mental images should be as striking as possible with vibrant active characters displaying exceptional beauty or singular ugliness. They should be engaged in striking or comic effects involving heroes and trauma, disasters and great feats.”
Kelly also notes that these stories are often performed repetitively, in ritual at specific locations, making use of memory palace techniques in a similar fashion to the Greek orator’s use of the method of loci. Despite being a literate culture, there is evidence within the Westcar Papyrus stories that they have been constructed in such a manner.
The first story in the Westcar Papyrus has suffered from significant loss of content with only the end of the story available. There is a significant portion of the second story available and translated for which I have not attempted an analysis. Therefore, the analysis will commence with the third story “The Wonder of Djadjaemankh” which is set as though being told to the Pharaoh Khufu by his son Prince Baufre. It tells of a wonder or act of magic performed during the time of the IVth Dynasty Pharoah Snofru (Sneferu) by the Chief Lector Priest Djadjaemankh. The story is unusual in its treatment of the deceased Pharoah Snofru who is presented as petulant, starting out with his introduction as being bored or depressed and in need of cheering up, requiring the immediate attention of the Cheif Lector Priest:
The Pharoah Sneferu and Chief Lector Priest Djadjaemankh are already being formed as vivid characters when the story takes a comical turn as Djadjaemankh prescribes that being rowed on his lake by the most beautiful women in his palace will cheer the Pharoah. The comical aspect of the story is ramped up when Pharoah Sneferu accepts Djadamank’s prescription and mandates that these women be full breasted, have braided hair, take off their clothes and wear nets:Quote
[...] day, the things that have not happened every [room] of the palace (l.p.h.!) to seek distraction for himself, but he couldn't find any.
Then he said: "Go and bring me the chief lector priest and book-scribe Djadjaemankh."
And he was brought to him immediately. Then His Majesty said to him:
"I've gone through every room of the palace (l.p.h.!) to seek distraction for myself, but I couldn't find any."
“Then Djadjaemankh said to him:
“may Your Majesty proceed to the lake of the palace (l.p.h.!), and man a ship with all beautiful women from inside your palace. The heart of Your Majesty will be gladdened by seeing them row a trip back and forth, and seeing the beautiful reeds of your lake, and seeing its (surrounding) fields and its beautiful watersides. Your heart will be gladdened by this."
"So I will arrange my rowing trip. Let me be brought twenty oars of ebony plated with gold, with handles of sqb-wood plated with electrum.
Let me be brought twenty women who have beautiful bodies, who have well-developed bosoms, who have braided hair, and who have not been opened by childbirth. And let me be brought twenty nets and let these nets be given to these women after their clothes have been taken off."
And one did as everything that His Majesty had ordered.”
The characters of Djadjaemankh and Pharoah Snofru in the story thus far have already become vivid, memorable and comical. The story is about to setup trauma through the loss experienced by one of the rowers:
This passage has setup more than the trauma of the young stroke rower losing her pendant as it also introduces the first hint of an astronomical theme. As she has become still and therefore her entire side of rowers have stopped rowing, there is no information about the other side of rowers having stopped. Therefore, we must assume that they have continued to row and the consequence of rowing on one side only is that the boat will not be travelling in a straight line but will be constantly turning. As such, I propose that the boat is travelling in an elliptical motion on the lake and this motion of the boat on the lake is representative of the stars and constellations travelling at night as observed from sunset to sunrise.Quote
“Then they rowed back and forth, and the heart of His Majesty was gladdened by seeing them row. Then one woman who was at the stroke oar got entangled in her braids and a fish-pendant of new turquoise fell into the water. Then she became still, without rowing, and her side became still, without rowing.
Then His Majesty said: "Can't you row?"
And they said: "Our stroke has become still, without rowing."
Then His Majesty said to her: "Why aren't you rowing?"
And she said: "This fish-pendant of new turquoise has fallen into the water."
We are treated to a further comical scene where Pharoah Sneferu attempts to convince the stroke rower that he will replace the fish pendant but fails and summons Djadjaemankh setting the Pharoah up as a fool and the priest to become the hero of the story:
Having established the elements of a mythological tale including vivid characters, trauma and a hero performing an incredible act, lets examine whether the characters of the story could also have an astronomical meaning to them. These characters are:Quote
“Then the chief lector priest Djadjaemankh said his magic spell and put one side of the water of the lake on top of the other, and found the fish-pendant lying on a shard.
He then fetched it and gave it to its owner. Now, as for the water, it was twelve cubits in its middle, and it ended up being twenty-four cubits after its folding up.
Then he said his magic spell and returned the parts of water of the lake to their positions.”
(1) The Fish Pendant;
(2) The lake;
(3) The boat;
(4) The nets worn by the rowers;
(5) The rowers themselves; and
(6) The Pharaoh Sneferu
The fish pendant is described in the story as of new turquoise. My initial research led me to believe that the colour turquoise is typically associated by the ancient Egyptians with a Talapia fish. Talapia being an important enough species of fish to the Ancient Egyptians to have a specific hieroglyph which is denoted as K1 in Gardiner’s list. Reviewing Nederhof’s conversion of the Westcar Papyrus original hieratic into equivalent heiroglyphs, I was curious to find that no instance of the fish in fish pendant uses the K1 glyph. Instead, the glyph is K5. Reviewing Lull and Belmonte, the K5 glyph makes an appearance in table 6.2 on p163 in the Egyptian constellation hnwy or the 2 Khanuwy Fishes. The same species of fish and indeed fashioned in the form of the K5 glyph appear in the Zodiac of Dendera in figures 6.16 and 6.17. On p183, Lull and Belmonte identify these two fish as Pisces noting there is “an inundated field in the middle of Pisces”. I argue the inundated field is the sign for a body of water (she) such as a lake. I propose that the specific references to the height of the lake being 12 cubits in the middle and 24 cubits when folded represent the number of hours in the day, which the Egyptians divided into two blocks of 12 hours.
The K5 glyph is representative of a variety of elephant fish worshipped in a town known as Oxyrhynchus.
Roca and Mellado
“As a result of clandestine excavations in the area of El-Bahnasa and Zawiyet Barmacha in the 1960s and 70s, large quantities of bronze oxyrhynchus fish of the Saite-Persian Period began to arrive on the antiquities market. Many of these bronze fish wear an Hathoric crown and rest on a sled-shaped base, which in all likelihood indicates that they represent the goddess Thoeris. In some cases a figure of a priest kneels in front the fish”
Recalling the visual from the story, of the Chief Lector Priest Djadjaemankh leaning down to collect the Oxyrunchus fish pendant which is lying on a shard, could the story also be indicating a linkage to Thoeris? Thoeris is typically represented by a female hippopotamus with a crocodile on her back which is also the symbol of Reret the hippopotamus identified in Lull and Belmonte’s table 6.1.
According to Roca and Mellado, “The oxyrhynchus fish is also of central importance in Plutarch’s account of Set’s fratricidal fight with Osiris in order to wrestle from him the throne of Egypt. After cutting Osiris ́s body into fourteen pieces he spread the pieces throughout Egypt. The phallus was thrown into the river and devoured by three fish” introducing the possibility the fish is representative of half of the lunar cycle of approximately 28 days.
Moving on, the rowers are provided with oars made of ebony and plated in gold. According to Lull and Belmonte p 179, the inscription on the Zodiac of Dendara reads “(This is) The sky of gold, the sky of gold, (it is) Isis the Great, mother of the god (Horus), lady of the Primordial Hill at Iunut (Dendara), (this is) the sky of gold. His great divinities are the stars: Horus-son-of-Isis, his god of the morning, Sokar his god of light, Ihy, his visible star; Osiris the moon, Sah is his god; Sopdet is his goddess” I argue the plating of gold is indicative the oars are for the sky of gold, rowing a mythological boat of the sky.
The boat is a known constellation, in table 6.1 of Lull and Belmonte wi3 or “The Boat” is found to be Sagittarius. Moving to the nets which are worn by the women rowing the boat. We aren’t told much of these nets, but in table 6.2 of Lull and Belmonte, a constellation the Egyptians knew as Kdty or the 2 nets. The rowers I propose to be representative of the Goddesses Isis and Nepthys who are represented by the constellation twins and two ladies by Lull and Belmonte which translates to the Southern Cross.
The Pharaoh Snofru is possibly represented by the Egyptian constellation “Nht” which has been translated as “The Giant” by Lull and Belmonte in Table 6.1. According to Leprohon, nht is also used in many titles of Horus over a large number of sites, including:
Barque Stand, Avaris: “k3 nht mry re (ka nakht mery ra)” or Victorius Bull, beloved of Re
Obelisk, Heliopolis: “k3 nht dr h3swt m nhtw .f” or The victorious bull who has repelled foreign lands with his victories; and
Abydos, Great Temple: “k3 nht ‘3-hps” or “Victorious bull, great of strong arm”
These are just a few examples of the titles containing nht and referring to Horus in Leprohon’s work. Therefore, I argue that nht is associated with the Victorious Bull or Victory and strongly associated to Horus.
The ruling Pharoah of the time is in turn representative of Horus. According to Wikipedia on Horus: “The earliest recorded form of Horus is the tutelary deity of Nekhen in Upper Egypt, who is the first known national god, specifically related to the ruling pharaoh who in time came to be regarded as a manifestation of Horus in life and Osiris in death.”
This concludes the review of the story of the Wonder of Djadjaemankh which has used the elements of vivid characters, comedy, trauma and a hero to tell the story of a night sky similar to the one shown below which has been produced in Stellarium with the Egyptian Star Lore setting turned on:
The story of Djedi the magician immediately follows that of the Wonder of Djadjaemankh. To set the scene, in this story, it is another of Khufu’s sons Prince Hordedef telling the story to Khufu. Almost immediately, this story turns to introduce Djedi a vivid, highly memorable character as he is of an advanced age and yet has a ferocious appetite and is able to perform tricks such as the mending of a severed head:
At this halfway point in the story of Djedi, we have established the story is certainly using elements of mythological storytelling with a vivid character, trauma and a wondrous act. Lets commence an investigation into the following characters which may represent astronomical data:Quote
'There is a commoner called Djedi who lives in Djed-Snofru. He is a commoner a hundred and ten years old, who eats five hundred loaves of bread, a shoulder of beef for meat, and drinks a hundred jars of beer, up to this day. He knows how to mend a severed head. He knows how to make a lion walk behind him, with its leash on the ground.”
The elements of mythological story grow with the trauma of two geese and a bull being decapitated. Djedi an already vivid character is setup as the hero by reanimating these animals.
'Is it the truth what they say, that you know how to mend a severed head?'
And Djedi said:
'Yes, I know how to, sovereign (l.p.h.!), my lord.'
Then His Majesty said:
'Let me be brought a criminal who is in prison, and let his sentence be executed.'
Whereupon Djedi said:
'But not to a human, sovereign (l.p.h.!), my lord! Look, doing something like that to the 'noble flock' is not ordained.'
Then a goose was brought to him and its head was cut off.
The goose was placed at the west side of the audience hall and its head at the east side of the audience hall.
Then Djedi said his magic spell, and the goose stood up, waddling, its head likewise. After one had reached the other, the goose stood up, cackling.
Then he had a hts3-goose brought to him, and the same was done to it.
Then His Majesty had a bull brought to him, and its head was felled to the ground.
Then Djedi said his magic spell, and the bull stood up behind him, its leash having fallen on the ground.
1. The two geese - a regular goose and a hts3-Goose;
2. The Bull;
3. The Lion; and
Starting with the two Geese. Immediately prior to the first goose being decapitated, Djedi had pushed back against decapitating a prisoner claiming “doing something like that to the noble flock is not ordained”. Lull & Belmonte on p173, discuss clusters (or “ht”) of stars including s3wi sit which is represented in hieroglyphs as two geese. Lull and Belmonte do not claim a known set of stars for this decan in their table 6.1. There is a further possible linkage to this decan or cluster (ht) in the name of the second goose which has been translated as hts3-Goose in Nederhof.
Referring to the bull, on p181 and with reference to the Zodiac of Dendera, Lull and Belmonte note that “the bull of Taurus, which is curiously represented in a very non-standard fashion, looking backwards and with its body extending to the east”
The lion is identified to Leo on p166, when discussing the position of the Lion constellations, they are in agreement the Lion constellations in Ancient Egyptian star charts refers to Leo. I note that in the case of the Lion and the Bull, the story uses the notion of a cord “fallen the ground” this means that the cord or leash is slack not taught and implies an elliptical shape, suggestive of the constellations movements through the sky or in relation to another constellation.
I propose that Djed is an ancient name for a constellation. According to Bunson, Djed “was the sacred sign of the god OSIRIS, considered the deity’s backbone… The Djed Pillar Festival, a cultic celebration of the symbol and its powers was held annually in Egypt… The priests raised up the Djed Pillar on the first day of SHOMU, the season of harvesting on the Nile.”
I note that in the story, Hordedef raises up Djedi. Using the connection of Djed being associated with Leo and Taurus, I identify a the most likely candidate to be a portion of Gemini. This identification could improve with identification of the geese decan.
Continuing the story, Djedi tells the Pharoah Khufu that he doesn’t know the numbers Khufu seeks setting up a new trauma for Khufu, the resolution of which requires triplets to be born to a hereto unknown priests wife called Ruddjedet. The eldest child will bring the numbers to Djedi setting up something of a tragic comedy which continues to the story following Djedi, where we learn that Ruddjedet lives in a house with another character Reusre. The sun god Re has sent the gods Isis, Nepthsys, Heqet and, Khnum disguised as musicians arrive to assist Ruddjedet, they find Reusre standing with his kilt upside down. In this third story, immediately there are elements of vivid characters, comedy and the trauma of the birth of triplets.
I suggest Reusre is representative of Osiris, whose name according to Mark is the Latinized form of the Egyptian Usir which is interpreted as 'powerful' or 'mighty'. Evidence for an alternative transliteration is found in Unterhaltungsblätter für Welt- und Menschenkunde, which states “Osiris, Gemahl der Isis, geschrieben: Usre oder Usri;” which translates to “Osiris, husband of Isis, written Usre or Usri”.
Further support of Reusre’s connection to Osiris is found in the gift of barley that he gives to the gods following their assistance with the birth. According to Smith, Osiris is associated to barley which is regarded as having sprung from his body. Reusre is thus a personification of Osiris and should be connected to the constellation Sah which is made up of a portion of Orion.
It is important to identify the children appropriately as in the story of Djedi, Djedi tells Cheops/Khufu that the eldest of the three children will bring him the number of chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth. Reviewing the children that are born to Ruddjedet, the papyrus tells us their names
'May you not be powerful in her womb, in this name of yours of Userref!'
'May you not kick in her womb, in this name of yours of Sahure!’
'May you not stay dark in her womb, in this name of yours of Keku!'
Nederhof, in his translation includes a footnote that to be historically accurate, Userref should be Userkaf and Keku should be Neferirkare. It is assumed that Sahure is correct as Sahure is the name of a Pharoah that follows Khufu. However, let's examine the evidence in Isis’ utterances that may indicate otherwise. Taking the first child, Isis utters 'May you not be powerful in her womb, in this name of yours of Userref!’ User is a name for Osiris as established above in the discussion on Reusre. Osiris is also connected to the concept of power and of re-birth. As such, I suggest that Userref is a re-birthing of Osiris.
Supporting this notion, Budge in discussing the Tuat on p179 “As the sun passed though the Tuat large numbers of souls made their way into his boat, and although it was only the dead sun that was their guide and protector, and his passage was through the realms of the dead which were under the sovereignty of Osiris, the god of the dead, they were brought forth at length to renewed life and light as soon as the boat passed out from the eastern end of the Tuat into the day.”. Budge further expands upon this by discussing the Tuat [pp 259-260] from the perspective of the cult of Osiris and identifies that there “lies a mummified form, representing Osiris, and called Sem-Ȧf, i.e., the “Image (or Form) of “Ȧf”” Further “As Ȧf, the dead body of Ra, passes into our world, his new life begins, and for men and women the night passes away, and a new day is born.” I argue therefore that Userref is in fact Osiris in the form of Ȧf and represents the rising sun in the morning.
Returning to the Westcar story, Isis utters 'May you not stay dark in her womb, in this name of yours of Keku!’ for the third child. Keku is the Egyptian god of darkness, which aligns to Isis invocation. According to Budge, “Kekui represents that period of the night which immediately precedes the day”. Budge further notes that Kekui was at one point considered an Elephantine god identified with Khnemu which came about due to considering Kekui a personification of the Nile god Hapi. Budge also informs us that at Kom Ombo, Sebek (a crocodile god) was a personification of Kekui.
The second child’s name of Sahure is considered to mean “He who is close to Re” with respect to the Pharoah Sahure. This combination of the third child Keku being the period of the night which immediately precedes the day, 2nd child Sahure being close to Re lends support to the notion that the first and therefore eldest child of Ruddjedet Userref is a form of Osiris-Ȧf and therefore represents the rising sun.
Then His Majesty said:
'When will Ruddjedet give birth?'
(And Djedi said:) 'She will give birth on the fifteenth day of the first month of the Season of Growing.'
Then His Majesty said:
'But that's when the sandbanks of Two-Fish Canal are cut off. Might I visit it myself, so that I could see the temple of Re, lord of Sakhbu!'
The first month of the season of growing roughly translates to early January. There is an interesting hint that the temple of Re is the lord of Sakhbu. This is interesting because the 15th day of the lunar month in the season of growing would see the moon and sun in the sky in the early morning so we have the darkness of Keku immediately before the light of Userref rising. The temple of Re here could indicate a station of the sun.
I have reviewed two possible interpretations of Sakhbu. Nederhof offers the phonetic representation of Sakhbu as S3hbw. Looking at the root of the word Sakhbu it starts with s3h which could be interpreted to Sah. However if Sah which includes the belt stars of Orion were housing the sun in early January when the moon and sun are jointly in the sky in the morning, it would push the date back into a remote past.
According to Jones, S3h-t3 means landing place. Therefore, an interpretation of the S3h in Sakhbu is that of a landing place. If we are to use this interpretation, we must then look to the rest of the word to attempt to understand who or what is at the landing place. Reviewing a number of deity’s, the closest match for the remainder of the word that I could find was Quebui a minor deity associated with the North wind.
According to Budge (vol II) when discussing Isis:
“Among her general titles may be mentioned those of " the divine one, the only one, the greatest of the gods and goddesses, the queen of all gods, the female Ra, the female Horus, the eye of Ra, the crown of Ra-Heru, Sept, opener of the year, lady of the New Year, maker of the sunrise, lady of heaven, the light-giver of heaven, lady of the North Wind, queen of the earth”
These titles and the preceding discussion link Isis to Wadjet and the North Wind. Wadjet is one of the twins of the twins and two ladies constellation which is known and linked to the Southern Cross in Lull & Belmonte.
“ He knows the number of chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth. Now, the majesty of the king of Upper and Lower Egypt Cheops, justified, spent the day seeking for himself these chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth, in order to make something similar for himself, for his 'horizon'.'
Djedi is made more memorable through his rumoured possession of knowledge of the number of chambers of the sanctuary of Thoth. This knowledge is presented as highly valuable to Khufu who wants to use it for his horizon (Pyramid). On the sanctuary of Thoth, Gardiner informs us “I have no light to throw on the whereabouts of the wnt; it may be the name of the sanctuary of Hermopolis Magna, or it may be the name of an earlier sanctuary of Thoth in the Delta; or it may be a purely mythical building”. Examining Thoth as a lunar deity, Boylan interprets that “Thoth is Iooh, the moon." Boylan also tells us The Egyptians had setup a lunar calendar, based on the regular cycles of the moon and that this calendar was important for agricultural purposes. In keeping with the mythological storyline with encoded astronomical data, the sanctuary of Thoth therefore could be the station of the moon, a concept used in the establishment of lunar calendars.
With an understanding of the sanctuary of Thoth to mean the station of the moon, we can examine whether the translation of the word chambers is valid. Nederhof has followed the prior translation of Gardiner for the specific phrase Ipwt to mean “chambers”. Berrgren identifies that this translation is not conclusive and presents on p12 various meanings of one of the roots of the word Ipwt "ip means to 1) count, reckon up, make reckoning (with), assess (dues), pay, allot (to), exact (from), detail (s’one for work), claim (from), examine (persons), recognize (s’one), revise (schedules), take heed of, set in order (bones of decapitated body), muster, assemble (of persons)."
Placing the sentence in context now with the clear astronomical theme of the Papyrus established from the story of Djadjaemankh with the lunar station interpretation of the sanctuary of Thoth, a valid interpretation of the sentence is that “Khufu is seeking the numbers from the <reckoning|details|examination|assessment> of the stations of the moon Khufu wants to use these numbers in his Horizon (aka Pyramid). This could also refer to measurements of some kind. To support this interpretation, lets look at the continuation of the astronomical theme in the story of Djedi.
This information can in turn be used to attempt to date the event in the story using astronomy software such as Stellarium. As the story should in theory, point to a date in which Khufu was undertaking the design of his pyramid, an extensive search for alignments has not been completed. Instead, a review of the early years of Khufu’s expected reign were reviewed and a good fit occurs on January 21 in the year 2587 BCE thus marking the year in which Khufu’s horizon or pyramid was being designed.
With this alignment, we can attempt to identify the station of the moon (the sanctuary of Thoth). The station or house of the moon as the moon sets would be the Egyptian constellation of Selkis. We know that Khufu is seeking the numbers from the <reckoning|details|examination|assessment> of the station of the moon and that Khufu wants to use these numbers in his Horizon (aka Pyramid). Examining Selkis, the star at the scorpions tail which is the star closest to the moon is Sigma Leonis. Sigma Leonis is 220.08 light years away from Earth according to the 2007 Hipparcus data. We know from Petrie’s survey of Khufu’s pyramid that the base-length is expected to be 440 Royal Cubits. As such, an intriguing possibility arises - did the astronomer priests of heliopolis understand the speed of light? Other possible sources of numbers from the Selkis constellation have not been fully explored so another explanation of the numbers of the house of the moon may arise.
A final note on this particular alignment, the constellations we were introduced to in the story of Djadjaemankh being the Giant, the fish, the net and the Southern Cross representing the twins Isis and Nepthys are all present in the span of the sky between the rising sun and the setting moon. This could be a form of redundancy in the stories to enable a cross reference or check to be performed.
In conclusion, each of the three stories analysed exhibit the key characteristics of mythological storytelling. The alignment of the characters to known asterisms or constellations of the Egyptians is demonstrated, enabling us to date the story. This in turn allows us to date when the Great Pyramid of Giza was being designed to January 2587 BCE. A review of the house of the moon on this date raises the possibility that the priests of heliopolis had a more advanced science than we currently allow.
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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 22-Aug-19 22:26 by engbren.