CCNet ESSAY: THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW
THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW:
AN IMPACT AT THE CITY OF HERAKLEOPOLIS (HENSU) CA. 3114 BCE AND THE UNIFICATION OF EGYPT
E.P. Grondine <email@example.com>
Hello Benny -
It is often said that fools rush in where wise men fear to tread. I suppose
that given that I have been researching historical impact events for some
five years now, I may be excused for just beginning with an examination of
Egyptian mythological records relating to impact events. In other words,
this is my first shot at Egyptian myth materials, as my commentary on the
Egyptian historical records relating to Joshua impact event of 1588 BCE
under Thutmose I http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/cc012102.html
dealt solely with Egyptian historical records, and not their myth materials.
As a further sign of my growing folly, I now wish to share with those CC
participants so inclined a previously un-noted ancient Egyptian document
"The Book of the Celestial Cow", apparently a record of the cometary
encounter and impact ca. 3114 BCE. Although one copy of this text was found
in one of the shrines discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun the solar
monotheist heretic (ruled ca. 1370 BCE), and another copy of it was found on
the walls of a small chamber in the tomb of Seti I (ca. 1300 BCE), from the
contents of the book itself it can be shown to have been composed quite
early indeed, and this will be demonstrated immediately below.
INTRODUCTION TO THE TEXT:
BACKGROUND SHOWING THE ANTIQUITY OF THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW
Many often try to give Egyptian theology a coherence which it clearly lacked
in the real world. Egyptian religion was syncretic from its very beginning,
combining as it did the pre-existing theologies of the northern and southern
kingdoms. The theology of the northern kingdom itself seems to have already
been by the time of unification a combination of an indigenous native cult
with that of sea-going emigrating farmers who arrived along the Egyptian
coast sometime between 7,000-5,500 BCE:
As is common in agricultural societies, those societies where the population
is dependant upon the cultivation of crops for sustenance, there is an
emphasis in the Egyptian religions on the factors affecting agriculture. In
many societies this emphasis is on the annual rain cycles, but in Egypt,
with its peculiar and unique dependence on the regular flooding of the Nile
River, the emphasis appears to be on the Sun and its interactions with
comets - comets either as the Sun's enemies or as his tools. Clearly, if the
water supply was regular to some degree, then sunlight and both comet dust
loadings and impact might assume prime agricultural and religious
importance. While it is hard for modern people to imagine it, as we have
seen elsewhere from the Mayan records,
the appearance of Comet Encke and its fragments was quite impressive, to say
From the existing iconographic remains, it appears that at the center of the
combined northern cult laid Horus, the Sun; Osiris, some "pole" star, though
which one is not yet clear; and Set, a serpent representing comets. In
contrast, the southern cult focused on Ra, the Sun, and Hathor, a cow/comet.
While Sumerian influences arrived over the eastern desert to this southern
Nile river region sometime around 4000 BCE, the southern theology appears to
be even more ancient, as bull burials have been found at the megalithic
stone circle observatory at Nabta. The possible relationship of these
Nabtaean peoples to the even earlier Saharan hunters, and these hunter's own
possible earlier relationship in turn to the wooden henge builders of
ancient Europe is quite intriguing, but I digress...
Within the combined kingdom, over time the individual cult centers would
compete for power and goods, and the later theology would be modified to
match their aspirations. While there are no less than 4 different Egyptian
cosmologies by later times, the interesting thing about the "Book of the
Celestial Cow" is that the core text generally appears to use solely the
early southern cosmology, with later additions being made at Thebes.
To provide additional confusion, as if more were needed here, this seems an
appropriate place to comment more generally on some aspects of the later
developments of Egyptian religions/cosmologies. First off, clearly there
were cosmological factors which varied over time. My understanding from the
Egyptian texts themselves is that during the existence of ancient Egypt as a
unified culture several celestial "combats", several impact events, were
witnessed by practioners of the various insubstantiations of their
"religion", and each time these religions had to be modified to account for
these massive impact events. We have seen several Near Eastern
religions/cosmologies which developed in ways to incorporate new impact
events, and Egyptian religion appears no different. 3 to 4 impacts appear
evident in its myth record, though sorting these out is difficult in the
extreme, given the many "aspects" of the gods which developed over time, as
the historical memory of the actual impacts faded. The salient fact here in
all of this is that in the "Book of the Celestial Cow", only 1 impact
features - although none the less this impact is reported within the
framework of an already established cosmology featuring comets.
In the Book of the Celestial Cow, as is common in primitive cosmologies, the
celestial realm has to reflect the earthly realm, thereby giving validity to
the current method of social organization. This makes it very difficult to
separate the "magic" elements from the "real" elements - unless the
constantly evolving parallels are kept clearly in mind. In the Mayan
societies/cosmologies/religions we saw the development of 2 main actors, the
tribal leader, the ahau, and his principle intellectual/religious leader,
the chilam balam (op. cit., above); in the tale below, the parallel
relationship of Ra, the Sun and the Pharoah, with Thoth, his principle
intellectual/religious leader, should be carefully noted. As collected by
Caroline Seawright (http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/thoth.htm)
Thoth was an astronomer, the 'One who Made Calculations Concerning the
Heavens, the Stars and the Earth'; an agricultural advisor, the 'Reckoner of
Times and of Seasons'"; a surveyor "who 'Measured out the Heavens and
Planned the Earth'; an engineer, 'He who Balances', the 'God of the
Equilibrium' and 'Master of the Balance'; a physician, 'The Lord of the
Divine Body'; a scribe, 'Scribe of the Company of the Gods'; the Pharaoh's
proxy, the 'Voice of Ra'; an author, the 'Author of Every Work on Every
Branch of Knowledge, Both Human and Divine'; and finally he who understood
'all that is hidden under the heavenly vault'." Thus the Thoth of "The Book
of the Celestial Cow" is thus best viewed as the early Pharaoh's chilam
balam, the divine reflection of the earliest Pharaoh's real life "Sandal
Bearer", his intellectual leader and advisor.
Now during the extremely long period of time during which "the" religion of
Egypt was practiced, there would have been a change in the pole star due to
changes in the Earth's inclination, and this must have been particularly
disruptive to a religion firmly tied to celestial phenomena. However, given
the early nature of the Book of the Celestial Cow, this is not the place to
comment on that, and in fact the work is so early that no commentary on this
matter is needed here.
I do hope that all of this has made everything clear. Those looking for any
kind of coherence in ancient religions/cosmologies look in vain, as they
have none in our modern sense. They were world views which made sense to
those who practiced them, and served to organize those societies, and to
keep their technologies. Any apparent contradictions within those systems
were either ignored or explained away by those who practiced them.
The most ancient form of "the" Egyptian religion also has parallels to Mayan
religion both in its use of hallucinogens, as well as in its practice of
human sacrifice; and both of these are attested in the Book of the Celestial
Cow, thus giving us a sure sign as to its antiquity. The Book of the
Celestial Cow's rite of combining mandrake with beer finds another parallel
in the ancient German practice of combining atropa with beer, the
predecessor of the modern "Pils" type of beer (sadly no longer available in
the US due to a decree from the Food and Drug Administration). But the
dosages used in ancient Egypt seem to have been much, much larger, and the
effects of the hallucinogen mandrake, (active ingredients atropine,
scopalamine, hyoscamine), seem to have been moderated by combining it with
blood: the Book of the Celestial Cow makes it clear that human blood was
used for this purpose.
As yet a further sign as to the antiquity of the Book of the Celestial Cow,
it must be noted that this human sacrifice is also attested to in plaques of
the first kings of the first dynasties of Egypt, in which the collection of
human blood is clearly shown. In terms of dating, since there is (at least
to my knowledge) no evidence in Egypt beyond the period of the First Dynasty
for this particular type of human sacrifice, the Book of the Celestial Cow
must therefore be firmly dated to the First Dynasty, in other words the time
of the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt; all of this being yet another
way of saying that it must be dated precisely to the time of the events
described within it.
To further clarify this dating, the cometary dust encounter and impact event
described in detail in this book must be dated to the time of its creation,
the time of unification of the Lower and Upper Kingdoms, well established be
field excavation to be ca. 3100 BCE. Thus the impact reported here must
coincide precisely with the rendezvous of the Comet Encke with the Earth
which occurred in ca. 3114 BCE, even though as we have seen in the case of
the destruction by impact of Bazas, France (cit Sub-roman work) impacts
could occur at least up to 44 years following Comet Encke's initial
MAYAN DATES FOR THE COMET ENCOUNTER
16 June, 3122 BCE - The First Maize Revealer Partitioner is born
7 December, 3121 BCE - Birth of Lady White (?)
13 August, 3114 BCE - Image made visible at Closed Sky, the First Three Stone Place;
Event for The First Maize Revealed Partitioner
5 February, 3112 BCE - The First Maize Revealed Partitioner enters the sky,
Prepared/Dedicated the Raised Up Sky Place in the North
Set in motion the Raised Up Sky Heart
In closing this background note, two effects of the use of primitive
hallucinogens are the hallucination of a bright fire, usually seen as an
energizing force, a "life soul"; and the hallucination of the images of
things which are not there at all, usually viewed as a kind of form, a "body
soul" which was imposed by the aforementioned "energy" on unruly "matter".
As will be seen below, in ancient Egypt meteorites from space were
understood to be the source of this "unruly matter", an idea which finds
reflection today in our modern knowledge of planetary accretion. On the
other hand, strange as it may seem to modern man, it must also be noted that
for the ancient practitioners of this particular religion, "heaven" was a
very real place, specifically the "heavens", in other words "space" itself -
and they expected that as a reward for their earthly virtues, their "energy"
would find eternal life burning there in space as a star.
A CONTEMPORARY EGYPTIAN RECORD OF THE IMPACT EVENT?
The fourth and bottom register of the "reverse" of the Palette of Narmer,
also called Menes, the First King to unite Egypt, the First Pharaoh of the
First Dynasty, shows a town and man being crushed by a bull - and as is
shown by the Book of the Celestial Cow, this bull is either King Menes
himself, or a comet. The man being crushed wears the full beard and long
hair characteristic of the sea-going peoples of Lower (northern) Egypt. The
meaning of the third register of the Palette is unclear: it shows 2 northern
Egyptians struggling with long necked beasts. The "reverse" side's second
register shows Narmer, now wearing the crown of northern Egypt, with a
general and 4 men bearing nome staffs standing to his right, and with his
star priest/scribe standing to his left, all standing triumphant before now
The middle register of the "obverse" of the Palette shows Narmer, with his
scribe to his left, and wearing the crown of Upper (southern) Egypt, smiting
a northman who has the southern royal sign of the falcon over his head,
along with 6 flowers which may stand for either 6,000 prisoners or 6
On the top register of both sides of the Palette Narmer's name stands
between the glyphs of two bulls' heads, which may stand for the two
kingships, that of Upper Egypt, and that of Lower Egypt.
Now on to the text itself.
THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW:
THE LEGEND OF THE DESTRUCTION OF MANKIND
[Adapted to modern usage from the translation of E. A. Wallis Budge, Legends
of the Egyptian Gods. Budge's notes and restorations are in parenthesis, the
ones for this note are in brackets.]
"(Here is the story of Ra [the Sun],) the god who was self-begotten and
self-created, after he had assumed the sovereignty over men and women, and
gods, and things: the one god.
[Note that it is explicitly stated here that this event occurred well after
A COMETARY DUST LOADING
"Now men and women were speaking words of complaint, saying, "Behold, his
Majesty [Ra, the Sun] (Life, Strength, and Health to him!) has grown old,
and his bones have become like silver, and his members have turned into
gold, and his hair is like unto real lapis-lazuli."
[The description here reflects the dimming of sunlight due to dust loading
from this encounter with Comet Encke.]
"His Majesty [Ra, the Sun] heard the words of complaint which men and women
were uttering, and his Majesty (Life, Strength, and Health to him!) said
unto those who were in his train, "Cry out, and bring to me my Eye, and Shu,
and Tefnut, and Geb, and Nut, and the father-gods and the mother-gods who
were with me even when I was in Nun side by side with my god Nun."
[Budge identified Shu as God of the Air, Tefnut as Goddess of Moisture, Geb
as God of the Earth, and Nut as Goddess of the Sky - but Nut is better
explained as the Goddess of the Heavens, or best as the Goddess of the Star
Field. Budge glossed Nun as "the primal flood preceding creation, later the
ocean in which the earth rests", but did emphasize that the Egyptians
understood the clarity of the emptiness of space as being due to its being a
clear celestial "water", in other words "Nun".
As will be seen further along in this story, the "eye of Ra" is the comet
prototype. In later Egyptian zodiacs one comet is often pictured as the disk
of Ra resting on the back of a bull: the Taurids, so to speak.
Ra, the Sun, continues his speech...]
"Let there be brought along with my Eye [the comet prototype], his
ministers, and let them be led secretly to me here, so that men and women
can not see them [coming] hither, and may not therefore take to flight with
"Come you [also] with them to the Great House [Ra's tomb?], and let them
declare their plans (or, arrangements) fully. For I will go from Nun
[Space] into the place wherein I brought about my own existence, and let
those gods be brought unto me there."
[In other words, the sun disappears completely, most likely due to cometary
"[Then] the gods were drawn up on each side of Ra [the Sun], and they bowed
down before his Majesty until their heads touched the ground, and the maker
of men and women, the king of those who have knowledge, spoke his words in
the presence of [Nun, Space] the Father of the first-born gods. And the gods
spoke in the presence of his Majesty [Ra, the Sun], saying, "Speak unto us,
for we are listening to them (your words)".
"Then Ra [the Sun] spoke unto Nun [Space], saying, "O first-born god from
whom I came into being, O you gods of ancient time" [Please note the usage
here extremely carefully: there was a pantheon of gods whose "existence"
preceded that of Ra.], "my ancestors, take heed to what men and women [are
doing]: For behold, those who were created by my Eye [in other words those
who had been given "unruly matter" by comets and meteorites] are uttering
words of complaint against me. Tell me what you would do in the matter, and
consider this thing for me, and seek out (a plan) for me, for I will not
slay them until I have heard what you shall say to me concerning it."
A FIRST IMPACT?
"Then the Majesty of Nun [Space] spoke to [his] son Ra [the Sun], saying,
"You are the god who is greater than he who made you; you are the sovereign
of those who were created with you, your throne is set [established], and
the fear of you is great: Let your Eye [the comet] go against those who have
uttered blasphemies against you."
"And the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] said, "Behold, they have betaken themselves
to flight into the mountain lands, for their hearts are afraid because of
the words which they have uttered."
[The people's "flight into the mountain lands" referred to here most likely
was a flight from both settled agriculture, and thus the King's control, and
back to hunting, undertaken in response to the crop failures brought on by
the comet's dust veil.]
"Then the gods spoke in the presence of his Majesty, saying, "Let your Eye
[a comet] go forth and let it destroy for you those who revile you with
words of evil, for there is no Eye [matter] whatsoever that can go before it
and resist you and it when it [your Eye] journeys in the form of Hathor
[this particular comet]."
"Thereupon this goddess [Hathor, the active comet] went forth and slew the
men and the women who were on the mountain (or, desert land).
[Budge alerts us to his confusion with this passage by also giving the
alternative reading of "or, desert land". Perhaps the best reading for the
underlying term would simply be "wilderness", the place where the people
could hunt game to substitute for the crops which had failed due to the
comet induced climate collapse.]
AN IMPACT AT HENSU, THE CITY OF HERAKLEOPOLIS
Wherever this first impact took place, the next impact struck the northern
Egyptian city of Herakleopolis, as will be seen immediately below,].
"And the Majesty of this god [Ra, the Sun] said, "Come, come in peace, O
Hathor, for the work is accomplished. Then this goddess [Hathor, the comet]
said, "You have made me to live, for when I gained the mastery over men and
women it was sweet to my heart." And the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] said, "I
myself will be master over them as [their] king, and I will destroy them."
[In other words, after the first impact Ra, the Sun, asks Hathor, the active
comet, to stop, but Hathor appeals, and Ra agrees to let her continue.]
"And it came to pass that Sekhet"
[Budge explains "Sekhet" as the Eye of Ra, lion-headed goddess symbolizing
the destructive power of Ra, the Sun. Also known later as "Sekhmet", this
may be either the active comet Hathor when "she" is near the Earth; or more
likely, one of the fragments of Comet Encke which the Maya described
"of the offerings [sacrifices] waded about in the night season in their
blood, beginning at Su-ten/hen-en" [for which other later readings have
"hen-en/Su-ten", "Hensu", the Lower Egyptian (northern) city of
THE CONQUEST OF THE NORTH
"Then the Majesty of Ra [the Sun], spoke, (saying), "Cry out, and let there
come to me swift and speedy messengers who shall be able to run like the
wind . . . . and straightway messengers of this kind were brought unto him.
And the Majesty of this god spoke (saying), "Let these (messengers) go to
Abu [Elephantine at the southern border of the country], and bring unto me
mandrakes in great numbers."
[Here the King's control of the South of Egypt, the Upper Kingdom, is
asserted. The "mandrakes" are a hallucinogenic atropa.]
"And [when] these mandrakes were brought unto him the Majesty of this god
[either Ra, the Sun, or the King himself] gave them to Sekhet [the comet
Hathor when near Earth], the goddess who dwells in Annu [the city of
Heliopolis] to crush.
[It is unclear here whether the King had established control over the Lower
(northern) Egyptian city of Heliopolis, or whether this refers to a later
establishment to the Hathhor/Sekhet cult at Heliopolis.]
"And behold, when the maidservants were bruising the grain for [making]
beer, these mandrakes were placed in the vessels which were to hold the
beer, and some of the blood of the men and women (Budge adds "who had been
slain"). Now they made seven thousand vessels of beer.
[This appears to be a statement either that at least 7,000 people died in
the impact at Herakleopolis, or that 7,000 people were sacrificed at
"Now when the Majesty of Ra [the Sun], the King of the South and North, had
come with the gods to look at the vessels of beer, and behold, the daylight
had appeared, after the slaughter of men and women by the goddess [either by
the comet Hathor near the Earth as Sekhet, or in the human sacrifice at
Heliopolis] in their [the constellation's] season as she [Hathor/Sekhet]
sailed up the river [of her water in space, in other words followed her
[Minimally, what this says is that "daylight", sunlight, reappeared when
Comet Encke receded.]
"The Majesty of Ra [the Sun] said, "It is good, it is good[!]; nevertheless
I must protect men and women against her. And Ra [the Sun] said, "Let them
take up the vases and carry them to the place where the men and women were
slaughtered by her."
"Then the Majesty of the King of the South and North in the three-fold
beauty of the night,
[This "three fold beauty" may refer to the three stemed plant icons seen in
First Dynasty inscriptions. Atropa?] caused to be poured out these vases of
beer which make (men) to lie down [Budge glossed this as "(sleep)", but in
sufficient dosages atropas cause death], and the meadows of the Four Heavens
were filled with beer by reason of the Souls [of either the intoxicated and
sedated or the dead] of the Majesty of this god.
[In the preceding passage the King, who is now King of both the South and
the North, claims identity with Ra, the Sun. Despite Ra's command that the
vessels be taken to "the place where the men and women were slaughtered by
her", as will be seen in the next passage, the "meadows of the Four Heavens"
must be the locations of parts of the star field.]
"And it came to pass that when this goddess [Hathor/Sekhet] arrived at the
dawn of day, she found these [the Four Heavens] flooded [with the beer
souls], and she was pleased thereat; and she drank (Budge adds "of the beer
and blood"), and her heart rejoiced, and she became drunk, and she gave no
further attention to men and women.
"Then said the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] to this goddess [Hathor, the comet],
"Come in peace, come in peace, O Amit." [This is either the comet Hathor
when it is inactive, or the third fragment which the Maya
described.(op.cit.)]." And thereupon beautiful women came into being in the
city of Amit (or, Amem). And the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] spoke [concerning]
this goddess, [saying], "Let there be made for her vessels of the beer which
produces sleep at every holy time and season of the year, and they [the beer
vessels] shall be in number according to the number of my hand-maidens."
"And [thus] from that early time until now men have been wont to make on the
occasions of the festival of Hathor vessels of the beer which make them to
sleep, in number according to the number of the handmaidens of Ra [either of
the Sun or of the Pharaoh].
A SECOND DUST LOADING:
RA'S INSTRUCTIONS TO SHU AND NUT
"And the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] spoke unto this goddess
[Hathor/Sekhet/Amit, the comet], (saying), "I am smitten with the pain of
the fire of sickness; whence comes to me [this] pain?" And the Majesty of Ra
said, "I live, but my heart has become exceedingly weary with existence with
them (with men); I have slain (some of) them, but there is a remnant of
worthless ones, for the destruction which I wrought among them was not as
great as my power."
"Then the gods who were in his following said unto him, "Be not overcome by
your inactivity, for your might is in proportion to your will."
"And the Majesty of this god [Ra, the Sun] said unto the Majesty of Nun
[Space], "My members are [have been] weak for the first time; I will not
permit this to come upon me a second time."
[Here there is a claim that this was the first encounter with a comet, which
by the existence of the earlier celestial pantheon must patently be not
"And the Majesty of the god Nun [Space] said, "O son Shu [the air], be the
Eye [matter of?] for your father . . . . .[and you, Tefnut(goddess of water)
be a river] and avenue (?)[for] him; and you, goddess Nut [Star Field],
place him [Shu, the Air, under you]. . . . . ...
"And the goddess Nut said, "How can this be [done] then, O my father Nun
[Space]? Hail," said Nut . . .
". . . to the god Nun [Space], and the goddess straightway became (a cow),
and she set the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] upon (her) back . . . . .
"And when these things had been done, men and women saw the god Ra [the
Sun], upon the back (of the cow [Nut the Star Field]). Then these men and
women said [to Ra, the Sun], "Remain with us, and we will overthrow your
enemies who speak words of blasphemy (against you) and (destroy them)."
"Then his Majesty (Ra)[the Sun] set out for the Great House [Ra's tomb?],
Budge restored: "and (the gods who were in the train of Ra remained) with
them (with men) during that time the Earth was in darkness.",
Here restored: "and [Nut, and the gods who were in the train of Ra remained]
with them [Ra and Nut] during that time the Earth was in darkness."
[However the line is restored, the reading that sunlight had disappeared
completely is certain. That the other "gods", celestial bodies, would
"disappear" as well seems entirely likely.]
"And when the Earth became light (again) and the morning had dawned, the men
came forth with their bows and their (weapons), and they set their arms in
motion to shoot the enemies (of Ra)[the Sun].
[Two alternatives suggest themselves here. The first of these is by the
Southern Kingdom against the Northern Kingdom, which had been weakened by
the earlier impact event at the city of Herakleopolis. This would follow the
usual pattern we have seen elsewhere, where other peoples took advantage of
their nearby neighboring peoples who have been weakened by impact events.
The second alternative is a reduction in the population by a genocide
conducted by the farmers against those who had abandoned agriculture and
returned to hunting.]
"Then said the Majesty of this god [Ra, the Sun], "Your "transgressions of
violence are placed behind you, for the slaughtering of the enemies is above
[Budge restored "slaughter (of sacrifice)", more likely restored "the
slaughter (which I the Sun had planned)"].
"Thus came into being the slaughter..."
[Here Budge restored "slaughter (of sacrifice)"; "slaughter (of enemies)" is
THE STAR FIELD REAPPEARS,
OR, THE CREATION OF THE STAR FIELD
"And the Majesty of this god [Ra the Sun] said unto Nut [the Star Field], "I
have placed myself upon my back in order to stretch myself out."
"What then is the meaning of this? It means that he united himself with Nut.
(Thus came into being) .........
[As we have seen at the start of the Book of the Celestial Cow, Nut was
already in existence; it must be remembered that we are dealing here with
copies of the text composed some 1700 years after the original. It seems
likely that the original book was on its way to being transformed into a new
book of creation.]
"Then said the Majesty of this god [Ra, the sun], "I am departing from them
(from men), and he must come after (me who would see me; thus came into
"Then the Majesty of this god [Ra, the sun] looked forth from its [the star
field's] interior, saying, "Gather together (men for me), and make ready for
me an abode for (the) multitudes [of their star-souls];" thus came into
"And his Majesty [Ra, the Sun] (life, health, and strength be to him!) said,
"Let a great field (sekhet) be produced (hetep)", (and) thereupon
Sekhet-hetep came into being.
[Note that "sekhet", "field" is also the name of the goddess Sekhet/Hathor
mentioned above in the context of sedating/hallucinogenic/toxic mandrake
"(And the Majesty of this god [Ra, the Sun] said), "I will gather herbs
(aarat) [most likely "mandrake"] therein", [and] thereupon Sekhet-aaru came
"(And the Majesty of this god [Ra, the Sun] said), "I will make it to
contain as dwellers things (khet) like stars of all sorts", [and] thereupon
the stars (akhekha) came into being.
THE STAR FIELD GODDESS NUT TREMBLES
"Then the goddess Nut [the Star Field] trembled because of the height."
[Perhaps the earliest text read that Nut "trembled because of the (new
added) weight", that of the fragments of Comet Encke. The "trembling" may
actually have referred to a waving of the star field due to Comet Encke's
dust train. In any case, Shu, the Air, is now told to hold Nut up, and
additional "props" for the Star Field are created.]
"And the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] said, "I decree that supports [come into]
be[ing] to bear (the goddess up)", [and] thereupon the props of heaven (heh)
[the star field] came into being.
"And the Majesty of Ra [the Sun] said, "O my son Shu [the Air], I pray you
to set yourself under [my] daughter Nut [Goddess of the Star Field], and
guard for me the supports (heh) of the millions (heh) [of stars] which are
there, and which live in darkness. Take the goddess upon your head, and act
as nurse for her."
"Thereupon came into being (the custom) of a son nursing a daughter, and
(the custom) of a father carrying a son upon his head."
A LATE DESCRIPTION OF A SYMBOLIC ZODIAC IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWS IN THE TEXT AS
THE MAIN TEXT CONTINUING BELOW THIS
"This chapter shall be said over (a painting of) the cow [Nut, Goddess of
the Star Field].
"The supporters (called) Heh-enti shall be by her [Nut's, Goddess of the
Star Field] shoulder. The supporters (called) Heh-enti shall be at her side;
and one cubit and four spans of hers shall be in colours; and nine stars
shall be on her belly; and Set [who later oversees all comets] shall be by
her two thighs and shall keep watch before her two legs; and before her two
legs shall be Shu [the Air], under her belly, and he [Shu the Air] shall be
made (painted) in green qenat [blue?] colour. His [Shu, the Air's] two arms
shall be under the stars, and his name shall be made (written) in the middle
of them, namely, "Shu" [the Air] himself.
"A boat with a rudder and a double shrine shall be therein, and Aten (the
Solar Disk) shall be above it, and Ra [the Sun] shall be in it, in front of
Shu [the Air], near his hand, or, as another reading has (it), behind him,
near his hand. [Duplicate readings in the original text.]
"And the udders of the Cow [Nut, the Star Field] shall be made to be between
her legs, towards the left side. And on the two flanks, towards the middle
of the legs, shall be done in writing (the words), "The exterior heaven,"
and "I am what is in me", and "I will not permit them to make her to turn."
"That which is (written) under the boat which is in front shall read, "You
shall not be (motionless, my son)", and the words which are written in an
opposite direction shall read, "Your support is like life", and "The word is
[here] as the word there", and "Your son is with me", and "Life, strength,
and health be to your nostrils!"
"And that [writing] which is behind Shu [the Air], near his shoulder, shall
read, "They keep ward", and that [writing] which is behind him, written
close to his feet in an opposite direction, shall read, "Maat" ["Truth"],
and "They come in", and "I protect daily".
"And that [writing] which is under the shoulder of the divine figure which
is under the left leg, and is behind it, shall read, "He who seals all
things. That [writing] which is over his head, under the thighs of the Cow
[Nut, Goddess of the Star Field], and that which is by her legs shall read,
"Guardian of his exit."
"That [writing] which is behind the two figures [Ra and Tem] which are by
her two legs, that is to say, over their heads, shall read, "The Aged One
[Ra, the Sun] who is adored as he goes forth [rises]," and "The Aged One
[Tem, the Sun] to whom praise is given when he goes in [sets]."
"That [writing] which is over the head of the two figures, and is between
the two thighs of the Cow, shall read, "Listener", "Hearer", "Sceptre of the
Upper Heaven", and "Star"(?-Budge).
THE MAIN TEXT OF THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW CONTINUES:
RA'S GIVES SEB AND NUN RULE OVER COMETS
[In later times in Egypt the God Set rules over comets, but in this document
Set is not mentioned. Instead Ra gives the Earth god Seb and Nun rule over
"Then the Majesty of this god [Ra the Sun] spoke unto Thoth, (saying) "Let a
call go forth for me to the Majesty of the god Seb, saying, 'Come, with the
utmost speed, at once."'
And when the Majesty of Seb [the master of Earthly serpents] had come, the
Majesty of this god [Ra the Sun] said unto him, "Let war be made against
your serpents which are in you: truly, they shall have fear of me as long as
I have being. But you [Seb] know their magical powers: do go to the place
where my father Nun [Space] is, and say unto him, 'Keep ward over the
serpents which are in the Earth and Water.'
"And moreover, you shall make a writing for each of the nests of your
serpents [comets] which are there [with Nun in Space], saying, 'Keep your
guard [lest you] cause injury to anything.' They shall know that I am
removing myself [from them], but indeed I shall shine upon them. Since,
however, they indeed wish for a father, you shall be a father unto them in
this land for ever.
"Moreover, let good heed be taken to the men who have my words of power [the
priests?], and to those whose mouths have knowledge of such things [the
astronomers?]; truly, my own words of power are there; truly, it shall not
happen that any shall participate with me in my protection, by reason of the
majesty which has come into being before me.
[This last sentence must relate to those "whose mouths have knowledge of
such things", but exactly how is unclear.]
[The next sentences contain the only mention in the work of Osiris, a god of
Lower (northern) Egypt to be found in it, and this appear to mark them as a
later addition to the southern text.]
"I will decree them to your son Osiris, and their children shall be watched
over, the hearts of their princes shall be obedient (or, ready) by reason of
the magical powers of those who act according to their desire in all the
Earth through their words of power which are in their bodies."
RA'S INSTRUCTIONS TO THOTH:
THE PHARAOH'S RELATIONSHIP TO HIS SANDAL BEARER
And the Majesty of this god said, "Call to me the god Thoth," and one
brought the god to him forthwith.
And the Majesty of this god [Ra, the Sun] said unto Thoth, "Let us depart to
a distance from [the] heaven[s], from my place, because I would make light
and the god of light (Khu) [is] in the Tuat and [in] the Land of Caves. You
shall write down [the things which are] in it, and you shall punish those
who are in it, that is to say, the workers who have worked iniquity (or,
rebellion). Through you I will keep away from the servants whom this heart
[of mine] loathes. You shall be in my place (ast) Asti, and you shall
therefore be called, O Thoth, the 'Asti of Ra.'
[Thoth as surveyor?]
"Moreover, I give you [the] power to send (hab) forth ..........; thereupon
shall come into being the This (habi) bird of Thoth.
[Thoth as engineer]
"Moreover, I give you [the](power) to lift up your hand before the two
Companies of the gods who are greater than you, and what you do shall be
fairer than [the work of] the god Khen; therefore shall the divine bird
tekni of Thoth come into being.
[Thoth as astronomer]
"Moreover, I give you [the](power) to embrace (anh) the two heavens with
your beauties, and with your rays of light; therefore shall come into being
the Moon-god (Aah) of Thoth.
[Thoth as the Pharaoh's proxy]
"Moreover, I give you [the] (power) to drive back (anan) the Ha-nebu;
therefore shall come into being the dog-headed Ape (anan: baboon) of Thoth,
and he shall act as governor for me.
[Thoth given royal status]
"Moreover, you are now in my place in the sight of all those who see you and
who present offerings to you, and every being shall ascribe praise unto you,
O you who are God."
ANOTHER LATER MAGICAL INSERTION
MAIN TEXT CONTINUES BELOW
"Whosoever shall recite the words of this composition over himself shall
anoint himself with olive oil and with thick unguent, and he shall have
propitiatory offerings of incense on both [of] his hands, and behind his two
ears shall be pure natron, and sweet-smelling salve shall be on his lips. He
shall be arrayed in a new double tunic, and his body shall be purified with
the water of the Nile-flood; and he shall have upon his feet a pair of
sandals made of white (leather), and a figure of the goddess Maat [Truth]
shall be drawn upon his tongue with green-coloured ochre.
"Whensoever Thoth shall wish to recite this composition on behalf of Ra [the
Sun], he must perform a sevenfold (?) purification for three days, and
priests and [ordinary] men shall do likewise. Whosoever shall recite the
above words shall perform the ceremonies which are to be performed when this
book is being read. And he shall make his place of standing (?) in a circle
(or, at an angle) ......... which is beyond (him), and his two eyes shall be
fixed upon himself, all his members shall be (composed), and his steps shall
not carry him away (from the place).
"Whosoever among men shall recite (these) words shall be like Ra [the Sun]
on the day of his birth; and his possessions shall not become fewer, and his
house shall never fall into decay, but shall endure for a million
THE MAIN TEXT OF THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW CONTINUES:
RA DEFINES HIMSELF
"Then the Aged One himself (Ra)[the Sun] embraced (?) the god Nun [Space],
and spoke unto the gods who came forth in the east of the sky, "Ascribe
praise to the god, the Aged One, from whom I have come into being. I am he
who made the heavens, and I (set in order the Earth, and created the gods,
and) I was with them for an exceedingly long period. Then was born the year
".....but my soul is older than it (time). It is the Soul of Shu [the Air],
it is the Soul of Khnemu [Khnum, the Craftsman of Mankind in the cosmology
of Thebes, an city in Upper (southern) Egypt], it is the Soul of Heh [either
the supporters of the star field or the millions of stars], it is the Soul
of Kek (Night) and Kerh (Darkness), it is the Soul of Nun [Space] and of Ra
[the Sun], it is the Soul of Osiris [the Pole Star], the lord of Tettu, it
is the Soul of the Sebak Crocodile-gods and of the Crocodiles [probably a
reference to the Milky Way and either eclipses or planets], it is the Soul
of every god (who dwells) in the divine serpents [comets], it is the Soul of
Apep [a crocodile (Milky Way) god who caused solar eclipses] in Mount Bakhau
(the Mount of Sunrise), and it is the Soul of Ra [the Sun] which pervades
the whole world."
THIS IS THE ORIGINAL ENDING OF THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW;
A PRAYER TO RA ADDED LATER CONCLUDES THE RECIEVED TEXT:
"Whosoever says (these words) works his own protection by means of the words
"I am the god Hekau (the divine Word of power), and (I am) pure in my mouth,
and (in) my belly.
(I am) Ra, from whom the [celestial] gods proceeded. I am Ra, the Light-god
"When you say (this), stop forth in the evening and in the morning on your
own behalf if you would make to fall the enemies of Ra.
"I am his [Ra, the Sun's] Soul, and I am Heka [the divine Word of power].
"Hail, Lord of eternity, Creator of everlastingness, who brings to nought
the gods who came forth from Ra [the comets?], Lord of your god, Prince who
did make what made you, who are beloved by the fathers of the gods, on whose
head are the pure words of power;
"Who did create the woman (erpit) who stands on the south side of you, who
did create the goddess who has her face on her breast, and the serpent
[comet] which stands on his tail; with her eye on his belly, and with his
tail on the Earth;
"[You] to whom Thoth gives praises, and upon whom the heavens rest, and to
whom Shu [the Air] stretches out his two hands,
"Deliver me from those two great gods who sit in the east of the sky, who
act as wardens of [the] heaven[s] and as wardens of [the] Earth, and who
make firm the secret places, and who are called "Aaiu-su," and
[The next passage appears to refer to the restoration of the state religion
following Akhenaten's heresy.]
"Moreover [there shall be) a purifying on the ........... day of the month
.............. even according to the performance of the ceremonies in the
"Whosoever shall recite this Chapter shall have life in Neter-kher (the
Underworld), and the fear of him shall be much greater than it was formerly
[upon the Earth] . . . . . . . and they shall say, "Your names are
'Eternity' and 'Everlastingness.'"
"They are called, they are called, "Au-peh-nef-n-aa-em-ta-uatipu," and
"Rekh-kuh-[tut]-en-neter-pui ......... en-en-hra-f-Her-shefu."
"I am he who has strengthened the boat with the company of the gods, and his
Shenit [Ra, the Sun's special royal minister Thoth], and his [Ra's] Gods, by
means of words of power."
FINIS - THE BOOK OF THE CELESTIAL COW
The key question that remains to be examined is the possibility that the
recovery of a copy of this early text with its solely Southern pantheon
actually led to the Theban cosmology, which in turn led to the monotheistic
heresy of Akhenaten. As providing any answer to this question lies far, far
beyond my meager talents and abilities, one can only hope that some time in
the future some scholar much more familiar with these materials will attempt
to answer it.
Well, Benny, I suppose that's it for now, and I don't think I've done too
badly here in this initial crack at the Egyptian myths, although I am also
certain that I will hear shortly from many about my mistakes. I guess that
in the end megalomania and delusions of power are all relative, and
sometimes a society can support the truly insane - especially when it is in
a society's overall interest to do so.
As always, I remain, yours in science,
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