Friday, April 30, 2010

An Egyptian Interpretation of the Grand Governing Star Oliblish (Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, Figure 2)

I  Called by the Egyptians Oliblish

The Prophet Joseph Smith specifically terms Oliblish an Egyptian name: "Stands next to Kolob, called by the Egyptians Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides; holding the key of power also, pertaining to other planets; as revealed from God to Abraham, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar, which he had built unto the Lord" (Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, Figure 2:

Gone forever should be the silly notion that Oliblish belongs to a mysterious universe of Adamic, or pure language names known only to Mormonism. Kolob--Oliblish--Kae-e-vanrash--Kli-flos-isis--Enish-go-on-dosh: Adamic? Not so. The Prophet, in his Explanation, quashes all such nonsense in the bud. Oliblish, as do the others, matches the Egyptian evidence with specificity and plainness. Joseph Smith never equates Egyptian or Hebrew with the pure language of which the Book of Moses speaks.

The standing figure--towering "like a Colossus"--also appears on many other round hypocephali. (Facsimile 2 is such a hypocephalus.) From these we can garner clues about his nature and name. And the first thing to note is the theme of knowledge on the legends (or tags) accompanying the figure--specifically, knowledge of names and, broadly, nothing short of omniscience.

II  The Knower

The legends describing the figure, as noted by Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, appear on either side the two-faced figure and run vertically from top to bottom (One Eternal Round, 266). On the left we read: jw rx.kwj (morphologically, a stative form); on the right: jw rxy (active perfective participle). At first reading, the face looking to the left sees all knowledge past; the face on the right, all knowledge future. Leftward lies all that I have found out, and thus now know; yet rightward lies not an eternity of discovery but an eternity discovered. The contrasting pairs, though expressing a duality, properly signify a wholeness of knowledge. Figure 2 is the Supreme Knower.

Oliblish attains to supreme knowledge, for he stands at the apex of the circle. Just so, the giraffe, periscope of animals, becomes, in the mysterious workings of his name, both hieroglyphic signature for the animal itself (sr) and for the spoken word of prophecy (also sr). The ram, who bears a like name (zr), by semiotic default, shares a like office, and towering Oliblish wears the mask of the ram. (For ram-faced Oliblish at the apex see One Eternal Round, 265-6; for the omniscient ram, Joris F. Borghouts, "The Ram as a Protector and Prophesier," Revue d'Egypte 32 (1980), 33-46.)

The Egyptian verb rx, like the Greek and Latin verbs of perception, employs a past construction to express present knowledge: the form that conveys I knew, learned, found out signifies I know. Even so, the opposition jw(=j) rx.kwj ~ jw(=j) rxy is most unusual and defies any simplistic reading. Can omniscience be bounded by words? As with the Indo-European languages, the Egyptian verbal conjugation expressing present knowledge takes the form usually reserved for the past. Jw rx.n=j, which grammatically bespeaks I knew, properly signifies I found out, and thus I know. The conjugation jw rx.n=j (I know) would, then, stand in opposition to the present-future form jw rx=j, which therefore conveys something of futurity: I shall know or I shall know-ed, that is to say, I know that too. (For the correspondence in tenses between the Egyptian and Indo-European verbs of knowing, see Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction).

Yet in describing the "standing solar figure," the Egyptians resort to the unusual choice of opposing stative and participial verbal forms to represent the linguistic opposition of knowledge, whether so contrasting past and future knowledge or some other notion (see BM EA 37909). Perhaps the Egyptians, in so oddly choosing, purposely avoid a clear-cut opposition of jw rx.n=j and jw rx=j to remove all doubt about the towering figure already knowing "the end from the beginning." In other words, he has nothing yet to discover or to learn. What we have, then, is not I knew and I shall know, rather I know beyond time's bending sickle's compass, beyond the edge of doom. While impossible to express in Western languages, given the limitations of the verbal paradigms, the pairing of these particular verbal forms in Egyptian somehow conveys an all-encompassing round--a total, perfective, yet continuous sense of knowing: "I all-know the knew" and "I am the all-knower of the will-know (or the will-knew)," or something fun like that. For Oliblish all knowledge unfolds in One Eternal Round.

The legend on the hypocephalus of Irethorrou (Louvre Museum Web page) simply reads rxy (Knower; all-knower). The Prophet's translation of the Book of Abraham best conveys the idea. As God tells Abraham: "My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning" (Abraham 2:8). Knowing the end from the beginning, from our own ignorant vantage point, is knowing backwards--yet "all things are present before me" says God. Hypocephalus Wien 253 so gives the accompanying legend for Figure 2 as: jw n=k ntr.w nb.wt (Truly, all gods are unto or before you), which recalls, so Hugh Nibley, Zeus and his golden chain. The god becomes all gods, the All-Ba, or All-Manifesting (see One Eternal Round, 261; see also David Klotz, Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, 28). In the Pyramid Texts the divine king gains knowledge and power by swallowing gods: to swallow becomes the verb to know in later Egyptian because the heart-and-belly (the jb and the q3b, qrb, Kolob) are the seat of knowledge. (For a reproduction of Wien 253 see One Eternal Round, 632.) Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-2, revealed to the Prophet on 2 January 1831, best expresses the Egyptian idea of omniscience. "All gods are unto you" = "looked upon. . . all the seraphic hosts of heaven."

The pairing of jw rx.kwj and jw rxy on hypocephalus BM EA 37909 expresses a theologoumenon (or theological point) about the nature of infinite knowledge. Omniscience divides into two modalities, two directions, while yet remaining a unified, perfective system. The idea forcefully evokes the Urim and Thummim as one object with two stones (see Nibley and Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 450, quoting Anton Jirku), or the division of knowledge, intelligence, or glory between kingdoms, as mediated by two types of stones, as explained in the 130th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants, verses 9-10.

III  The name of that greatest god

The same idea appears in different wording on the Abraham hypocephalus. Next to Figure 2 (as also next to Figure 1) we read: rn nj ntr pf '3 (name of the god). "Name of the god" might also be more literally rendered as "name of this (or that) greatest god"--all gods being considered great--yet Brother Joseph specifically speaks of the grand governing star ('3j = greatest, greatest of all.) Yet what rn nj ntr pf '3 signifies to the discerning reader is not "Name of the (greatest) god" but "[rx.kwj] rn nj ntr pf '3" (I know the name of the greatest god, or of this particular greatest god). The Tashenkhons hypocephalus (British Museum Website) so witnesses: jw rx.kwj rn nj (I know the name of . . .). Tashenkhons leaves us hanging until we see that where the phrase leaves off, reading from top to bottom of the upper panel, another phrase, running horizontally in the next panel, begins: ntr pn hrw 4 ([of] this god with 4 faces--our Kolob figure). "I know the name of this (greatest) god with 4 faces," which is also to know all which those faces illumine. Omniscience, in the truest, most transcendent, sense of the word, is to know the Name of the greatest god, in whom all things consist, in whom all things "hold together" (see Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "In Him All Things Hold Together," BYU Speeches, 31 March 1991).

Yet again we are left hanging since the name itself is never written. Or is it? Bien sur: "the name of the greatest god" is written in lieu of the god's own name. That is the point. A linguistic strategy of replacement or avoidance is at work. The phrase name of the god replaces the ineffable Name that only the Knower knows. Indeed the given name of the god, perhaps another smokescreen, meets the act of knowing itself: jw=j (or just jw) rx or rx=k (with its lateral glide and possible bilabial, followed by a liquid and an x or sh) comes as close phonologically to our Oliblish (jw=j = Oli or Olibi; jw = Olb, Olibrx = lish, rish, resh, esh) as anyone could ask. Oliblish, Olibilish, or Oliblishk might then signal: I know your name. "I know (Eg. Oliblish) the name of this god" thus masks a riddle: "the god whose name is 'I know. . . his name'" that is to say, "the god whose name is Oliblish." While I shall suggest several other readings that may more closely approximate the name Oliblish, we must always keep in mind the Egyptian penchant for approximation and wordplay. Here is subtlety--and Egyptian writings teem not only with wordplay but with like strategies of avoidance, euphemism, and taboo. Each of the hypocephali cited renders the legend a little differently; that found on the Abraham hypocephalus simply yields: "the Name of this greatest god," which is both a name without naming and a declaration of knowledge. The same idea appears on a Wikipedia page labeled "Joseph Smith Hypocephalus": "This reading identifies/represents the name of the god without actually writing it," as in Hebrew practice. (The Wikipedia page, otherwise odd beyond telling, partakes of Budge and other dated and derivative "sources.")

All of the above recalls the story of Isis and Re in which Isis coerces Re into revealing his Name. He responds by reeling off name after name without ever revealing the Name. The word for that Name is given simply, in the story, as rn, Name, not, as the commentators have it, "secret name" or "true name." The Name of the god is simply his name, just as in the phrase rn nj ntr pf '3. And yet the Name turns out to be a secret, after all--so we might as well read "secret name of this greatest god" on our Facsimile 2. Here is Name as Mask, a peculiar and specific correspondence to the idea of "hypocephalus as mask," with the mask or head as replacement and substitute for the god's invisible head (Dimitri Meeks, "Dieu masque, Dieu sans tete," Archeo-Nil, 1991). It is not that the god has no head: The head is invisible because it is beyond "knowing" and "seeing." We are facing transcendence. To receive the hypocephalus, says Professor Meeks, is to receive a new head, a solar head, and "Then shall the righteous shine forth like the sun" (Matthew 13: 43). Or even like Kolob. (Elder Neal A. Maxwell wished for LDS students some of the "candlepower of Kolob." In transcendent correspondence we enter the circuit of Oliblish, we hie to Kolob; "Out of the Best Faculty," BYU Magazine, Aug. 26, 1993.) To confirm Meeks's idea we only have to note how every single figure on the hypocephalus, either masked--the new head--or naturally represented, appears in the form of an animal. All is symbolic, not one of the figures is what it appears to be.

While it may be the owner of the hypocephalus who boasts such secret knowledge through the mouth of "the standing solar figure," it ultimately is that (masked) figure himself who so asserts: "I know the name of the greatest god with 4 faces." Notice he is not that greatest god himself, but the chosen heir to the knowledge of one great beyond all, one "more intelligent than they all"--as Abraham has it. Oliblish "Stands next to Kolob" as the Knower. Such knowledge can indeed be no other than the "the key of power" held, the Prophet tells us, by that same Oliblish. He also quite literally holds the Wepwawet, or Opener-of-the-Ways staff as key, according to Brothers Rhodes and Nibley (One Eternal Round, 267-8). To know the names of the governing planets, and of the divinities associated with them (an Egyptian idea), is to hold the key of universal power. Thus the hypocephalus itself becomes an encyclopedia of how the Egyptians order their universe and, thus, itself becomes the key to order and power.

And, given that "all gods are unto him," who is this greatest god (or stand-in for the greatest), the one greater "than they all," the god into whom all other gods fold as the curtain of knowledge is drawn open? It is Amun (jmn), "the Hidden One." He sees the cosmos in its entirety with his solar eye, but the Eye (pupil-with-iris) for us is masked: "masked" in overwhelming multispectral brilliance, that is, or hidden in plain sight (see David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, Chapter 7). The iris holds all light, all color, the vision of all nature in all its infinite variety. One thinks of the sea of glass before the throne of God, what the Prophet Joseph calls another Urim and Thummim. Even that translucent sea merely reflects the throne: the sea stands near to God's residence but remains at a remove. "Residence of God" is a strange, even bizarre, phrase for 19th Century Protestant Americans, since it implies that God has a house (and that concretely not "a house without hands"). Good-bye to the poetic phraseology of Paul; Prophet Joseph is giving us a planet as residence. What could be more unthinkable?

IV  Eye and Throne: the Name of Osiris

Yet what of the signs of Eye and Throne that write the name Osiris, another greatest god? Eugene Lefebvre suggests we read the signs as "The residence of the sun" ("Osiris" in Lexikon Aegyptologie, 624). By residence, Lefebvre has in mind the setting down of the sun in the netherworldly realms of Osiris, a blending or residence (not subsidence!) of powers both above and below. And we accordingly note what Brother Joseph says: "Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God," as well as the two mentions of the divine throne, one above, one inverted and below (Facsimile 2, Figures 1, 3, and 7). Osiris is the Throne of the Eye. That is to say: "God sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood," which Key-words are represented, Hugh Nibley teaches us, by the sign of the Wedjat-Eye (One Eternal Round, 313-22). Osiris, where the sun is concerned, is also the Residence of Resurrection.

Despite endless attempts at interpretation, that particular combination of signs nevertheless stands outside the wisdom of scholarship. Yet we think we know everything about it. The Prophet speaks profoundly of writings to be had in the Temple of God, and we blithely read one of those lines as "the Ba of Osiris Shoshonq" or of any-old "Osiris NN", that is, Osiris + Nomen of the deceased, which means--as all know-- just "the late So-and-So." True enough--and yet we forget that the hieroglyphic combination of Throne and Eye that make up that Name, that of the greatest god, has never been adequately explained. Both Throne and Eye, as Brother Nibley is at pains to point out, are the province of goddesses like Isis, Hathor (and Princess Sarah). The goddess in her role of transmission of royal authority informs the name of Osiris (Abraham in Egypt, Chapter Five; One Eternal Round, 151-160; I also note the familiar wordplay on the name of Osiris and the title of Prince, wsjr and sr--if not also princess, sr.t, srh, Sarah). No princess, no prince. No Sarah, no Osiris.

What does Throne and Eye mean? And exactly how was it pronounced in Pharaonic times? Not a living soul has any idea--it's a mystery. In this light one remembers that the Name we read, for convenience, as Jehovah was only "to be had in the Temple of God." (According to Hugh Nibley, One Eternal Round, 256ff., something approximating the sacred Name is found in the Prophet's Explanation as Jah-oh-eh.) We must never forget, when discussing divine names--should we even dare the attempt--that Jehovah (with its many variants), Ahman, Alphus, Omegus, Osiris, Isis (and wsjr and js.t), among others, remain mere masks of Names and pure convention. The question, then: When exactly is it that we know what we're talking about? Well did the Prophet Joseph say that anyone claiming knowledge about God might well go home and put his hand over his mouth until he finally came to know something (anything). After all, knowing is doing, and who would dare to act out his salvation without knowledge of God? The Netherworld texts of the Egyptians, as is well-known, sometimes substitute rx and jrj, knowing and doing the names of the gods and associated rites; indeed, one hypocephalus (Wien 253) gives as legend jwryk, a sort of fusion of the two verbs, if that's how the signs are to be read.

V  Oliblish

So what might Oliblish signify in Egyptian? In the absence of hieroglyphs we must turn to phonology for our answers, imperfect and preliminary though our understanding of Egyptian phonology may be. Oli- finds an "exact" hit, surprisingly, in both '3j and in the nearly synonymous wrj (great or grand, greatest, to be greatest). But how about the -b? It could represent the preposition m: thus "the One great(est) in knowledge or knowing (lish). Even closer comes the phrase 3wj-jb (expansive or expansion-of-heart = joyful; cf. Moroni in Alma 48:12, "his heart did swell with thanksgiving, [joy], etc."). In my view, 3wj-jb can only be transcribed in exacting phonological terms as olib. Yet the same must also be said of another possibility, Wrj-jb (Great of heart), an attested Egyptian name (Ranke, Personennamen II). In phonological correspondence to Semitic, 3wj-jb, with all those lateral glides coming together, pretty much has to reflect Oli-lib or Olib (Eg. jb = Semitic lib or libb, the heart; as others have noted, Lib also names the most energetic Jaredite king).

Possibilities for a phonologically viable Egyptian reading of Oliblish abound. As noted above, the solution to Oliblish may be as simple, and as puzzling, as the cryptic words: jw=j rx=kwj rn nj ntr pf ("I know the name of that god," or even, "I know" is the name of that god). Hugh Nibley also notes a star whose Egyptian name, "granted the elusive quality of the Egyptian liquid sounds," something, perhaps strongly, recalls Oliblish: 'bsh ("The Three Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Provo, 1980; Wb. I, 179, 3: New Kingdom).

How about -lish? Two possible readings come to mind.

1) It is all together possible to see in -lish not three distinct Egyptian phonemes, but one. The Egyptian grapheme we commonly associate with phoneme /sh/ (the shin) may well mask more than one phoneme. For instance, it may mask a lateral fricative, like the Welsh ll. The Hebrew grapheme shin apparently masks an additional phoneme, perhaps a lateral fricative. Whether lateral fricative or not, a rough transliteration, made for the ear, not the eye, might not be readily identifiable. We have to work at it, puzzle things out. In other words, lish could represent Egyptian shin.  Oliblish might well signify: wrj-b3-Shw = Oli-b-Shw = Oli-b-lish (Great is the Ba of Shu). The giant Oliblish figure on the hypocephalus is, after all, and beyond dispute, the Ba of Shu (or, the Ba Shu). (Nibley, Improvement Era, August 1969, notes how these striking names are written, and sometimes variously, for the ear.)

The god Shu personifies the power of light moving, in its brilliance, through the atmosphere or expanse of space. (Doctrine and Covenants 88 so speaks of God "moving in His majesty and glory" in the midst of space.) Amun, or Amun-Shu, is the Ba of Shu :

[Yo]u are Amun [both twt n jmn = You are Amun and Image of Amun],
You are Shu,
you are the highest of gods,
you are 'Sacred of Manifestations' as the four winds of heaven,
so (you) are called, when they come forth from the mouth of his majesty.

The Ba of Shu, who bends the winds, who traverses heaven daily. . .
unto the limit of the heavenly circuit [rim of hypocephalus, etc.]
(Hymn to the Ba's of Amun, David Klotz, Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple, 59-60).

As the Ba of Shu all gods "are unto him": b3 Sw n nTr.w nb.w (the Ba of Shu for every God), Invocation Hymn, Third Ba, Klotz, ibid. 28. Hugh Nibley also calls figure 2 "Shu." As Shu, the giant wears the Shwty feathers that represent the "light and energy that traverses and fills the space between heaven and earth, a light (to quote Joseph Smith) 'pertaining to other planets.'" (Hugh Nibley, Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 267).

2) The outcome for rx (to know) in Coptic, the latest form of the Egyptian language as written in Greek letters, is esh. And the Egyptian lateral we conventionally associate with an r as often as not corresponds to l (in fact was originally an l). But how about sh for x? The third of the four h's in Egyptian, which is a guttural h (x) not found in English, often has an outcome sh in later Egyptian--if that's not frequently the original pronunciation anyhow. We're left with the vowel. Coptic shows e: esh, but earlier Egyptian had no e-vowel at all. There was, however, an i. A reading rx for -lish is a viable possibility.

Intriguing is the following definition found in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (as penned by one of the Prophet's friends):

Ah lish ['3 rx = The One who is Greatest in Knowing?]: The first being--supreme intelligence; supreme power. . . without beginning of life or end of life; comprehending all things; seeing all things.

The accent falls on knowledge, just as on the hypocephalus labels. Although the Kirtland Egyptian Papers constitute not scripture but speculation, they do sport a few bona fide Egyptian and Semitic words and ideas and may accordingly contribute something to our knowledge of the ancients, as Hugh Nibley pointed out so definitively many years ago. Yet because we nowadays have the blessing of a five-volume Egyptian lexicon, we don't need to spend a New York minute on such preliminary Papers--as Hugh Nibley several times admonishes us in his masterpiece, One Eternal Round. (Let's listen!)

Olib-lish, like Urim-ve-Thummim, a double name, with a double outlook, can perhaps be read variously as 3wj-jb [m?] rx or 3wj-jb rx(y), or 3wy-jb [m?] rx(-sw) (the Expansive of Heart, the Knower, that is, the Joyous One, who knows (it), or the Knower). Such a reading might form a beautiful parallel, by way of word play, to 3wj-jb rash (the Joyous One, who rejoices, or the Joyous, the Rejoicing One). Indeed, expansion-of-heart as joy just as easily also becomes, when paired with rx, a playful expression for knowledge. That's how Egyptian works.

Here is a being who rejoices in knowledge, and Abraham himself is ever seeking greater knowledge--including the knowledge of the star Oliblish. Oliblish, in the image of Kolob, is thus a second "Heart Star" (Abraham 1:1).

Oliblish bespeaks both strength and joy. "Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world/ Like a Colossus" (Julius Caesar 1.2.135). There is no fault in that star! In Book of the Dead Chapter 162, the hypocephalus chapter, this very figure takes the epithet Pal or Par (Oli-bl-ish? Wrj-Pal-Shu?) and is described as both the mighty lion (p3 lw and a mighty runner. Couldn't P3l or P3r or P3lw mask p3 rxy, the Knower, as easily as it seems to some to mask Pre, or p3 r'w, the sun? It's another mask within a mask. The theme of the solar runner appears both in the Psalms and Egyptian cosmological texts (as often noted by Hugh Nibley): "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices as a strong man to run a race. His going forth [Eg. prj] is from the end of the heavens, and his circuit [Eg. phr] unto the ends of it [the circle and the apex of the hypocephalus]: and there is nothing hid from the heat [Eg. hh] thereof" (Psalm 19:4-6). Here is joyous Oliblish at the apex of sky and season, holding the keys of the burning Summer solstice; his opposite number, the feminine Enish-go-on-dosh, is a "name" describing the moment of the Winter solstice. And Winter is the low point, or ho telos, reminiscent of the telestial kingdom of Doctrine and Covenants 76 (Hugh Nibley links telestial to the Greek noun telos).

VI  Stands Next to Kolob

Even so, Oliblish does not outshine Kolob; he is second in command, the lieutenant-governor of the stars, the outcome and emanation of Kolob's radiant morning. What the Prophet says is: "Stands next to Kolob," which itself draws "nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God." Veiled in the bosom of eternity lies the crowning Throne Star, the diadem of Eternal Home. As for Kolob and Oliblish: "Neither one is the center of everything." Nor indeed is our local sun, Enish-go-on-dosh! There are many kingdoms of glory (One Eternal Round, 265).

The repeated word next finds a parallel in Egyptian writings about the heavenly bodies. Rait, the Female Sun (pictured as the cow, Enish-go-on-dosh, in Facsimile 2, Figure 5) is naechste (so Heinrich Brugsch translates) to the Sun. Brugsch builds on the idea that the Egyptians also considered certain other heavenly bodies to be "suns", that is, reflections of the Sun, the greatest of all, the grand governing creation (Heinrich Brugsch, Thesaurus Inscriptionum Aegyptiacarum I (1883), 78f.: r' pw nb r'.w nb.w, that Re who is lord of every Re). In his Thesaurus Brugsch also lists an array of planets bearing names reflective of the ancient sky-and-solar god, Horus. Their light is a borrowed one.

What word does Brugsch translate naechste? It is sn.nw(.t), which means second in order (sn means two; sn.nw, second: as in Joseph Smith's labeling for Oliblish, Figure 2; the so-called Book of Breathings is the sn-sn document, two-by-two, twain). The Prophet Joseph renders the Egyptian ideas in the Egyptians' very idiom! Because Sn.nw(.t) also corresponds to the word twtw (image, copy, likeness), when referring to Re, Sn-nw(.t) signifies a reflection, double, image, twin, or likeness of the sun. Again, we recall the Prophet's words: "said by the Egyptian to be the Sun," that is, not necessarily the actual sun but a reflection thereof, as "another of the governing planets." Note the attested Egyptian name Wrj-twtw-imn (Great is the Image of Amun), while something suggests the Oliblish idea. Brugsch speaks of the female twin of the Sun in a text from Philae, but Rait is not the only solar star. David Klotz (Adoration of the Ram, 177), cites the following from the Harris Magical Papyrus:

"I am Shu, the image of Re (twt R'), who sits within the wedjat-eye of his father,"

which recalls the double-plumed "Shu-crown" of double-faced Figure 2, who stands within the wedjat-eye, or the hypocephalus (see One Eternal Round, 267-8).

An early Christian writing--I momentarily forget which writing--calls Adam the "proto-plasmos," or "first creation"; his son, Seth, was begotten "in his own likeness, after his own image" (Moses 6:10: sn.nw and twtw), a teaching upon which Joseph Smith places much attention: "Because he (Seth) was a perfect man, and his likeness was the express likeness of his father, insomuch that he seemed to be like unto his father in all things, and could be distinguished from him only by his age" (Doctrine and Covenants 107:43, from the Book of Enoch; Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, Explanation, figure 1: Kolob, "the first creation." See also History of the Church, V: 247, where Joseph compares his brother Alvin to Adam and Seth.)

Thus the Harris Magical Papyrus, the lost Book of Enoch, and the Book of Abraham hypocephalus all teach one doctrine about the primeval inheritance of authority from father-to-son, a teaching emphasized by the Prophet Joseph in the great Revelation on Priesthood and also in his Explanation of the hypocephalus. The explanation for Facsimile 2, figure 3 specifically mentions Seth as the link between Adam and future generations ("Noah, Melchizedek, Abraham, and all [others]") in the line of patriarchal authority, "the grand Key-words" of which "Holy Priesthood" takes hieroglyphic representation as the wedjat-eye (Nibley treats the wedjat-eye in One Eternal Round, 315-22).

"And all to whom the Priesthood was revealed": note how priesthood is both passed down in unbroken line and also revealed, separately, to individuals. The pattern subtly, though paradoxically, suggests both line and dispensational cycle. The Prophet Joseph also unfolds a distinct, though incomplete, pattern of presidency at the opening of dispensations, a pattern but little spoken of. In several gospel dispensations, if not all, the keys of presidency are conjointly held in order to accord with the law of witnesses. Though not able to speak to particulars, we can attempt a list: Adam (who really presides over all dispensations) and Seth (or, Abel and Seth); Enoch; Noah and Shem; Abraham and Esaias (or Isaac?), or Abraham ehad--"I called him alone"; Moses and Elijah; Peter, James, and John; Joseph and Hyrum.

Seth, according to the Revelation on Priesthood (Doctrine and Covenants 107), was ordained by Adam to pass on the blessings, ordinances, and teachings specifically to his own posterity. (Prophecy dares the larger, worldwide audience in Enoch's day, and with good measure of success.) A second Prophet, son of Hyrum, continues Joseph's vision: As "one of the mighty ones, who was in the express image of his father," Seth holds the keys of the priesthood and its ordinances conjointly with Adam, or as the link with Adam, being also his personal representative or agent, his standard-bearer (Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, Joseph F. Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 138: 40). Thus the Prophet Joseph can also say, without any contradiction: "The Priesthood was first given to Adam: he obtained the First Presidency [that is, the first Presidency], and held the keys of it from generation to generation. . . He is Michael the Archangel. . .Then to Noah, who is Gabriel; he stands next in authority to Adam in the Priesthood. . . and was the father of all living in his day" (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 104). Adam and Seth, like Kolob and Oliblish, though in standing order also stand in fusion of authority; the others, archangels and stars alike, follow in the wake. Oliblish, at the side of the king, holds the Wepwawet standard, the planets follow (see One Eternal Round, 267-68).

On the Nash hypocephalus, "figures 1 and 2 are combined and their identity clearly established," or dually established (One Eternal Round, 265). One solar phase flows imperceptibly into another: master of forms aplenty, sun upon sun (nb xpr.w 'ash3.w, lord of many kheperur'w nb r'w, Book of the Dead Chapter 162). The hypocephalus displays a pattern, a relational pattern, bespangling creation, never rigid depiction.

Yet Kolob remains Kolob. It is also a mistake to say, as some do, that Kolob images the Celestial Christ in one-on-one correspondence. After all, both Oliblish and Enish-go-on-dosh (as sun)--and even the earth in its four quarters--also bespeak His glory. "All things testify of me;" but witness differs from identity, likeness remains likeness. Nor can we simplistically suppose Canopus or Sirius to be Kolob. Zarahemla may well be El Mirador, pyramids bathed in red, but Kolob is not Sirius. It lies beyond our Milky Way. Names and symbolism may match and reflect, but identity in an absolute sense is another matter. Neither Joseph Smith nor Hugh Nibley identify those stars. As our view of galactic space expands, so should our certitude about places lesson. Humility hits us from both sides; yet, as saving grace, we also come to call humility but wonder, and wonder grants us a place in the world. Though shaken by instrumental revelation of every kind, we still stand just a little lower than the angels.

Nor can (nor do) egyptologists blithely label every seeming-solar figure simply sun. Many stars and planets are said to be the sun, yet there is perchance one grand governing star. The central figure on the hypocephalus sun-like appears, but ever examples something more than just sun (as Jan Assmann insists). R' pw nb r'.w nb.w (Re it is, who is lord of every re) bespeaks a mystery, a game of words, a relational go-round: Ria nib riaw nibwThe One and the Many--so Erik Hornung subtitles his classic work, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt.

The One and the Many; the One in Duality: "On some hypocephali," Nibley and Rhodes tell us, "this figure is labeled both Re and Amun-Re, the same power at different levels. He stands at the zenith of the year and the noon of the day at his greatest moment of power [a solar phase]--the sun, the ruler of the solar system, but everything about him reminds us that he is in motion [running the round]. What about the rest of his journey, passing through the underworld from west to east? We are referred to the key, the Wepwawet, 'Opener of the Ways,' which lets us out of the underworld" (One Eternal Round, 265, italics added).

"All these are kingdoms" says Doctrine and Covenants 88:47, with that which is below in likeness of that which is above (see Moses 6:63). Here, then, are three solar images, even Kolob and its mirroring in descending kingdoms of light and power, an image that answers to the revelation of the three kingdoms of heavenly glory found in Doctrine and Covenants Sections 76 and 88. Given the Prophet's statement about both Kolob and Oliblish standing, in graded order, "near to the celestial," a reading of Facsimile 2 in light of Section 76 has doubtless occurred to most readers. We need not try to specify which star matches which glory. It is simply the triadic nature of the cosmos that matters here.

The depictions on the hypocephalus reflect a cosmos bathed in light. At least two figures can be said to represent the sun: our Figures 1 and 2 (sunrise and solar zenith). But the Egyptians always speak of the three phases of solar light, including the setting, or night sun in its netherworldly manifestation. For the hypocephalus idea to be complete, for the times and seasons to come to fullness of glory, we must look for three images, three phases, or manifestations of that glory--and this is where the Prophet Joseph comes in. According to the Prophet, who expands our view by giving us three kingdoms of glory as well as three glorious phases of celestial light, the Hathor Cow, standing opposite to Oliblish, and inverted, "is [also?] said by the Egyptians to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash," that is to say, an image reflected through a mirroring from above.

"And behold, all things have their likeness" (Moses 6:63). So God spoke to Adam in the beginning of the world. One kingdom stands mirrored in another, and all brilliantly reflect the glory of God (Moses 6:63; Doctrine and Covenants 88:4). These verses from Moses and the Olive Leaf revelation appear often in Hugh Nibley's explanation of the revelation of Facsimile 2, and, in so noting, I extend to the reader an invitation to discover and to re-discover that marvelous volume, One Eternal Round, as coauthored and edited by Hugh Nibley's friend and student, Professor Michael Rhodes. A good place to begin is on pages we have not even begun to explore: Facsimile 2, Figure 2, 265-68. Here we descry a governing Star "Striding forth boldly on his eternal rounds," with the Sw.ty-feathers of his crown, "a symbol of eternal beginning" and of light's distribution, loftily "protud[ing] above the confining edge" of the known universe.


The essay has been edited several times since its date of initial posting. For instance, the last four paragraphs, along with further elucidation, in light of the Prophet's Explanation of Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham, of Professor Eugene Lefebvre's reading of the name Osiris as the Residence of Re, were all added on 12/6/2011. Material on Seth and Adam added 4/28/2012. The reading of Oliblish as Wrj-b3-Shw added 2/9/2014.

Copyright 2010 by Val H. Sederholm

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Plain of Olishem and the Field of Abram: LDS Book of Abraham, Chapter One

I  Olishem on GoogleEarth

Even the thank-offering of a child did the priest of Pharaoh offer upon the altar which stood by the hill called Potiphar's Hill, at the head of the plain of Olishem (Abraham 1:10).

Abraham's brief book shifts easily between prose and poetry. Chapter One opens with a cascade of poetic verve--as if the author had not a moment to lose; the second part of verse 10 even shows meter:

which stood by the hill/
called Potiphar's Hill,/
at the head of the plain of Olishem.

Given Abraham's vivid account, the reader can clearly see the hill at the head of the stretching plain. "The places and names are specific and real," says Hugh Nibley. Despite the poetic touch, this is a real place, a place that could swim into ken on GoogleEarth (Hugh Nibley and Michael D. Rhodes, One Eternal Round [2010], 187; Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 406).

II  Is Ulisum, Olishem?

So where is the plain of Olishem? John Lundquist links Olishem with a Syrian place name found in the Akkadian record, Ulisum: "Naram-Sin the strong defeated Arman and Ebla and from the banks of the Euphrates as far as Ulisum." Where is Ulisum? "Far away, in the West." Whether Naram-Sin's Ulisum occupies the same spot as Abraham's Olishem, it's the very same name. The reading Ulisum (u[2]-li-si-im-ki), as John Gee carefully sets forth, ought to be rendered Ulisem or even Olisem (u[2]-li-se[2]-em-ki; the Sumerian determinative sign, KI, signifies land). As Michael Rhodes and Hugh Nibley further explain: "The 'u' and 'o' are phonetic variants of each other in Semitic languages. Moreover texts from the time of Naram-Sim regularly use the 's' to represent the 'sh' sound" (One Eternal Round, 173; text cited on ps. 172-3; John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors," note 64).

Is the place of Ulisum or Olis(h)em the plain of Olishem? Conclusions remain premature, but it would be remiss not to point out the similarity and, by so doing, show that the Book of Abraham merits a second look.

What does Olishem mean? John Gee and Stephen Ricks suggest Semitic Ali-Shem, or City of Shem--but Abraham says nothing of a city. ("Historical Plausibility: The Historicity of the Book of Abraham as a Case Study," in Paul Hoskisson, ed., Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures [Provo, 2001], note 113). Oli- mirrors other names found in the Book of Abraham: Oliblish (a governing star), Olimlah (the servant of a Prince of Egypt), and Egyptian or Semitic Olea (the moon). These last are Egyptian names; Oli-shem is Semitic.

Olimlah matches the Egyptian name Wrj-jmn-r' (Great is Amun-Ra, Hugh Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 220-1). Oli-b-lish approximates wrj-jb, rxy (the Great of heart, the Knower), wrj m rx (the One who is great in knowledge; or even, wrj m rx-sw. Even closer might be 3wj-jb [m?] rx(-sw) (The joyous one, lit. the expansive of heart [Moroni in Alma 48:12], the one who knows), with rx (knowing) as a pun on rsh (rejoicing = both 3wj-jb and rsh). Such a reading recalls the legends often written on both sides the Oliblish figure: "I know; I, the knower." Abraham Facsimile 2, figure 2, has the legend: "[I know] the name of that god." Mighty Oliblish, standing at the apex of the circle of the hypocephalus, possesses omniscience. And -lish certainly matches the Coptic outcome of Egyptian rx or rx-sw = esh. Yet -lish might not convey three separate Egyptian phonemes, but one: Egyptian shin as lateral fricative or the like. Given that the giant Oliblish figure represents the Ba of Shu, I cannot help but wonder whether Oli-b(l)-lish/sh mirrors Wrj-b3-Shw (Great is the Ba of Shu).

Have I resolved anything? Maybe not; but I have absolved myself of an obligation. It would be remiss of me not to point these possibilities out. Here is how Hugh Nibley worked, a method--nay, duty--but little understood. Students of ancient languages point things out--and that is all.

Now to Olishem. Should we even attempt an Egyptian reading, I would prefer for Oli- neither '3j nor wrj because a choice just as phonologically sound, and even more specific and peculiar to what Abraham 1 describes, presents itself: 3w or 3wj, with 3 as O- or Ol-, and wj as a lateral glide, thus l- or li-. Because the dictionary designates 3w as an expanse of land (Woerterbuch I, 4), 3wj-shem might then signify "the broad expanse of Shem." There is a Hebrew cognate: 3wj matches Hebrew rb (to be large: Egyptian 3 = Hebrew r; w ~ b) and further suggests r-h-b, a broad, open area, a plaza: Rekhob-Shem. (Does rhb derive from rb-rb? ) Nibley will give me a bit of help: On page 414 of An Approach to the Book of Abraham, we read that "Phathus or Petor" [Potiphar?] "was originally the name of Aram-naharaim, Abraham's native city, when it was first settled by Aram and his brother Rekhob." Further (414 n. 138): "The name of Rekhob alone would guarantee its religious background"--which brings us back to 3w, rb, and rhb (I'm adding all these italics, to be sure.)

III  Olishems Everywhere!

For Professors Gee and Ricks another Semitic place name (or names), mentioned in Middle Kingdom ceremonial cursing, or execration, texts, recalls Olishem: Irissym(n) and 3wshamm, a designation sometimes supposed to refer to 'Urushalimum, that is, Jerusalem ("Historical Plausibility," notes 116 and 117 = James Hoch, Semitic Words in Egyptian Texts, 493). Nothing could suggest Olishem more forcibly than 3wshamm! James Hoch reads the signs on the execration texts as 'lw-w-shl-l-m-m = *'Urushalimum, while noting: "If the reconstruction is correct, the writing is defective, indicating neither the i- nor all of the u- vowels." Without all the vowels, Hoch's reading could yet yield Orushalemem, that is, "the land of Jerusalem." I read the same signs as 3wj-sh3-m-m, a name marked with the determinative sign of land or place (not city): the land of Olishamum. Sham (ash-Sham), the reader will recall, is the Arabic word for Syria. How old is the name?

A proposed reading of 3wj as Oli (and the Egyptian "group writing" for the Semitic place name Oli-shamum does use the very same hieroglyph of an expanse of land!) matches Abraham's description of the place as "the plain of Olishem." It certainly also recalls the "Field of Abram," a Palestinian place name mentioned "in the great Karnak inscription of Sheshonq I," a place which, says Hugh Nibley, suggests, well--the plain of Olishem, a field set apart as the gathering-place for the nation (see One Eternal Round, 171-3; 182-7). Here is the maidan, the plain, the field as the ritual or panegyric gathering-place of all the sons of Shem.

Confusion between, or even reinterpretation of, place names marks nothing uncommon in the Ancient Near East--nor anywhere else. "Wandering of geographic names is a common phenonenon." For instance, the name of Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered his son, Isaac, transfers onto Mount Zion, which itself comes to bear the name Zaphon, that Olympus of "the heights of the north" (Psalm 48:3), Johannes C. de Moor, "Ugarit and Israelite Origins," Congress Volume Paris, ed., J.A. Everton, 217-18). Though the question must remain open, in theory a name such as City of Peace (itself, perhaps, a reinterpretation of City of the Evening Star) could mark either a reinterpretation or an alternative name for (or a misunderstanding of or conflation with) Olishem (for Nibley: High Place of Heaven), Potiphar's Hill, Mount Moriah, or even Zaphon. We are dealing with both a severely limited geographic area and also with a specific and peculiar Kulturkreis; within such close compass, we may expect a second or even a third Ulisum, Olishem, or Olishamum.

IV  Heaven's Height: Olishem's Sun Hill

Hugh Nibley advances a far more convincing etymology for Olishem in An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 415: "Olishem [and also Ulishim, for that matter] can be readily recognized by any first-year Hebrew student [ouch!] as meaning something like 'hill of heaven,' 'high place of heaven,' or even possibly 'sun hill' [or] the Plain of the High Place of Heaven," etc. ('al= '-l-y, "height"; Shami, Shamah, "visible heavens, sky" = Sky-Height; Heaven's Height). For Abraham on the altar, the place becomes Anti-Zion; then the bright angel appears. (Tsiyy-on suggests a high place of blinding white-hot brilliance.) As for Potiphar's Hill, its Egyptian name signifies "the Hill of the One-whom-Re-has given or appointed" (One Eternal Round, 172; Approach to the Book of Abraham, 415).

Who is the one whom Re has given? In Genesis, the name belongs to a "captain of the guard" and also to the "high priest" of Heliopolis, Sun City. That both are stand-ins for the King, the ultimate Priest of the Sun, cannot be doubted. Potiphar's Hill, an open shrine to Re, belongs to Pharaoh himself (see Jan Assmann, The King as Sun Priest). In Book of Abraham Chapter 1, Potiphar's Hill belongs not to the actual Pharaoh but to his royal substitute--and the pretender must die. If Joseph can inherit Potiphar, by marriage to Asenath, his daughter, and thus become a Potiphar, a royal representative, cannot Abraham also play the part? Joseph, in his own way, and in circumstances, at first blush, as different as can be, passes through the same tests and episodes Abraham once faced. The inheritance, the throne on high, is the gift of Re. Potiphar signals the altar, and Potiphar signals the ultimate exaltation. Both the Joseph and the Abraham narratives have to do with the creation of a king. Whatever the origins of the Egyptian name Potiphar, its ritual implications in the patriarchal narratives are clear.

Brother Joseph's Explanation of Book of Abraham Facsimile 1 helpfully gives us Shaumau for the very same root (to be high); we might then also read Olishem as Oli-Shaum, Oli-Shaumau, or even Oli-Shaumaum. So what do we have? Are we to understand Olishem as the plain of the expanse of Shem? the plain of the expanse of heaven? the high place of Shem? Jerusalem? place of ascent of heaven? the heights of heaven? or the high place of heaven? All seem to fit, but which makes for the best cultural, ritual, and linguistic match? which, the specific and peculiar?

V  A lot of explaining to do

Hugh Nibley has given us the root of the matter: It is one thing for Joseph Smith to give us a name, Olishem, susceptible to linguistic analysis, it is entirely another for that same name to yield a meaning which fits the ritual Sitz im Leben of the Ancient Near East. The notion of plain-cum-hill, Plain of the High Place of Heaven, perfectly fits the ancient setting, as do the solar and Heliopolitan associations of Potiphar's Hill. The critics have a lot of explaining to do.

Witness the following look down the lorgnette: "Certainly, Ulishim could be superficially linked on phonetic grounds to the Olishem mentioned in the Book of Abraham. . . But a convincing identification would have to be based on much more substantial evidence" (Christopher Wood, "The Practice of Egyptian Religion at 'Ur of the Chaldees," in, Robert K. Ritner, The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition [2012; 2nd ed., 2013], 91). Well and good; since we have not yet looked for, let alone found, the Ulishim of Naram-Sim, dogmatic conclusions remain premature. Professor Wood, who transliterates the place name as both Ulishim and Ulishem, goes on to explain how "the phonetic similarity is accidental (and here it should be pointed out that cuneiform sources attest thousands of place names)," Ibid. 91. Thousands of personal and place names the record may yield, yet exactly how does such a cornucopia bestow upon the philologist the right to dismiss any "certain" "phonetic similarity?" Cross-examination seems in order: To what language family does the name Ulishim belong? and what might the name mean? Should Ulishim, perchance, register either height or heaven, or both, might the place, which seems to be a natural border, include a hill?

Exactly how does a book of 14 pages produce dozens upon dozens of linguistic, cultural, thematic, theological, and literary points of comparison to the Ancient Near Eastern record? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with no hesitation whatsoever, with not even a hint of abatement, continues to post the Book of Abraham on line and to print copies by the tens of thousands. There is a lot of explaining to do.


Ulisum appears in "an inscription of the Akkadian king Naram Sin" (2250 BC), The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary (Richard Draper, S. Kent Brown, Michael Rhodes), 251, citing John M. Lundquist, "Was Abraham at Ebla?" in Studies in Scripture 2 (ed. Robert Millet and Kent Jackson, Provo, 1985), 233-34. The date is early but fits the idea of an archaic gathering-place. We know where Adam-ondi-Ahman is, and someday we shall also find Olishem. For the reading Ulisem/Ulishem/Olishem see John Gee, "A Tragedy of Errors," note 64 (published on the Neal A. Maxwell Institute Website).

This essay was originally posted in 2010, but modifications have been made and paragraphs added or moved about, from time to time. The paragraph considering Christopher Wood's explanations was added in February 2014 (then itself modified, revised, reworked, from time to time--but esp. in September 2014).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Eternity sketch'd" on the Abraham Facsimiles and on the Book of Breathings Vignettes


Exactly what is a facsimile of the Book of Abraham? And what is a vignette from the Book of the Dead or Book of Breathings? Why facsimile? Why vignette? Why not just picture or illustration? Facsimile 1, Facsimile 2, Facsimile 3: these designations become larger-than-life to the minds of the Latter-day Saints. We need to capture them better, dress them up a bit in the flowing tendrils of a vignette.

We talk of faxes, but facsimile is a near archaism. A facsimile is simply the attempt to make a true copy (facere similis) of a book, picture, letter. In the case of the Abraham-and-Book-of-Breathing vignettes, the Prophet had Reuben Hedlock make copies or "cuts" in wood blocks for purposes of printing, and the Prophet's History calls these copies of the vignettes both "facsimiles" and "cuts." Vignette never once occurred to him, and, indeed, sensu stricto, these drawings are not vignettes in the way nineteenth-century Americans used the word. So, for Abraham, we're stuck with facsimiles. That's all for the best: we can then distinguish between the facsimiles of the Book of Abraham and the vignettes for the Book of Breathings: the same little sketches but purposed differently over time.

That is to say, the vignettes may be repurposed to blend two lives or two stories into one. "In this case, in relation to this subject," as the Prophet says in his Explanation of Facsimile 1, the facsimiles point to Abraham in Egypt. Logic, then, requires us to conclude that "in another case, in relation to another subject," the vignettes can also point to Hor, the owner of the Book of Breathings and the Theban priest of Min-who-massacres-his-enemies. Because the significance of an Egyptian vignette may relationally vary from case-to-case, or even according to point of view--it is Osiris! it is Abraham in the likeness of Osiris! it is Hor in the likeness of Abraham, who is in the likeness of Osiris--it requires a seer to look through the later layers of the representational onion in order to perceive the essence of the thing. Abraham, Osiris, and Hor appear "knit together as one man," knit in hope's precedent, as an earnest of the resurrection. They come to us in the eternal round of "concatenation" (see Joshua 20:11; "Concatenation," Leonardo da Vinci).

That's how Hugh Nibley, writing in 1968, understood matters. By stating so lucidly and so logically the idea of relational signification, the Prophet Joseph is telling us that the vignettes are anything but pictures as we know pictures; rather, the vignettes are signifiers which possess this grace--they signify just what a particular priestly scribe designs (or programs) them to signify, and for whatsoever audience he intends them so to signify (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, "Facsimile 1 Is Not a Picture," 174-6).

So let's not say the Prophet took the facsimiles for mere pictures of Abraham, or that they together make up "a pictorial representation of events in the life of the prophet, Abraham," as flatly stated on the Joseph Smith Papers Web site. Such a simplistic idea circumscribes our ability to see the representational and semiotic field described by the Egyptians. "The whole thing," says Nibley, "is culturally conditioned. Abraham is trying to explain the figures to non-Egyptians, and he tells them that they cannot be understood unless they are viewed through trained Egyptian eyes" (Ibid. 174-75).

So much for the notion of iconotropy--"image turning"--bruited about today, the notion that the Facsimiles, by way of cultural reinterpretation, speak to Hebrew rather than to Egyptian ideas. To the contrary, the Prophet's explanation of the three facsimiles matches Egyptian cultural notions with specificity: the peculiar and the specific. Where such ideas also happen to match the Hebrew understanding, as they often do, both Abraham and Joseph Smith point the correspondence out. The two cultures do not diverge so widely as to necessitate "image turning" anyhow. The Egyptian facsimiles must nevertheless convey many things best understood in Egyptian terms, otherwise what would the point be? why would Abraham trouble with these Rahleenos, as he calls them, at all? (See William J. Hamblin, "Iconotropy and the JS Abraham Facsimiles," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture).

And vignette? The word means little vine and refers to the tendrils that grace the margins of books. Bookmakers also apply the word to any little drawing illustrating or illuminating (in the Medieval sense) the beginning or end of book or chapter--a little window into the matter to sum things up. I see in Leonardo da Vinci's interlaced and multi-tiered vignette or "Concatenation" a marvelous summing-up of his picture of the universe--his own Facsimile 2, so to speak: a mazed, knotted sun with four distinct rays. The "Concatenation"--much like the hypocephalus--becomes a sort of encyclopedia written in knots rather than letters. A vignette can also be a little story, and indeed Egyptian vignettes, more than mere window-dressing, always tell us a little ritual story.


Even Egyptologists use these Egyptian vignettes as, well, vignettes. And throughout the world such like vignettes decorate book covers, conference stationary, postcards, hotel facades, and the like.

Witness the following vignette borrowed from a vignette (a story within a story): Publishers chose a vignette from Ani's famous Book of the Dead to grace and to illuminate the front jacket cover of Professor Jan Assmann's masterpiece, Tod und Jenseits im Alten Aegypten (Death and Afterlife in Ancient Egypt). The choice of vigette is apt: a mummy appears to be about to arise from the dead: Death and Afterlife, and Hope.

In my turn, I choose this same little vine to sketch an understanding of the Abraham facsimiles, or vignettes from the Book of Breathings. The little picture works well for Professor Assmann's masterpiece; will it work at all for Abraham's book? (Note: we only need to see if it will work at all--I only mean to stir curiosity, no one's trying to make an open-and-shut case for Abraham in Egypt by jacket cover--by vignette.)

The multi-use vignette shows the deceased on the lion couch and surrounded, head and foot, by two "Olympic" torches on stands. Over the mummy hovers a falcon with outstretched wings and a bearded human head. Held in its talons is a ring tied to a horizontal bar; the symbol, painted green, thus also hovers over the deceased.

The vignette well illustrates Professor Assmann's book on the afterlife: here is Osiris, whose experience expresses the hope of every Egyptian; it does just as well at recalling or reflecting something of Abraham, as represented on the first two facsimiles of his book.

The (fac-)similarities between the Ani vignette and Facsimile 1, the lion couch scene, complete with hawk, are obvious (though it is the differences that afford the specific and the peculiar). But how about Facsimile 2, the hypocephalus, the round pillow, which keeps the head warm? Joseph Smith places the hypocephalus immediately after the lion-couch scene. Why would he do that? Do they belong at all together? The Ani vignette hints at Facsimile 2 in at least six ways: 1) the blazing torches (Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 208-9: both sacrificial and serving to keep the head warm); 2) the lion's mane as pillow cushion (the lion signifies renewal); 3) the outstretched wings (protection and unification: the round hypocephalus both protects and affords union with the solar disk); 4) the large open eyes of both human-headed hawk and the awakening mummy himself (hypocephalus as solar Eye, as also representation of the visions of Eternity, and the coming of the hawk to the deceased as shining Eye, One Eternal Round, 208-9); 5) the green back and wings of the hawk and of the shen-ring it holds (the green gem par excellence is the life-granting hypocephalus, One Eternal Round, Chapter 10, "Jewel of Discernment"); and 6) the shen-ring (the Eternal Round and the round hypocephalus, and the Abrahamic solar name Shinehah: One Eternal Round, 333-34). The shen-ring (the verb sheni describes the solar course) is the signature of the sun itself; in this case, on this vignette, the sun makes manifest as the ba-bird descending in glory into the lower worlds.

What the angel brings Ani, in circular form, recalls the protection and promise of the hypocephalus, the deliverance from death unto life eternal. Angel? Isn't this just a representation of the descending sun as the ba of Osiris (drawn with Ani's own face) uniting with his own Osirian mummy (the same face)? But what about the shen-ring? When a soul, artistically represented with wings, descends from the heavens with the sign of protection, deliverance (from the flames), and eternal life, what do we call that soul? (Remember, the winged-soul is bathed in flaming glory here, its head just on a par with, and embraced within, the high-flaming torches.) Answer: The angel of the Lord (see Explanation of Facsimile 1).

Question: Does the Rhodes and Nibley interpretation of Facsimiles 1 and 2 partake of wild, freewheeling, and fantastic views having nothing whatsoever to do with what captivates Egyptologists today? Again, why does the Prophet place the hypocephalus immediately after the lion couch scene? My little comparison of motifs found sketched on vignettes is not a matter of "all or nothing" but of at all? and nothing whatsoever? That was Nibley's approach--the second look.

So let's look again! Here's an seventh hint from the Book of the Dead vignette: both the beard of Osiris Ani and the bushy, lotus-flower lion's tail curl lavishly toward the hawk (as do the torch flames)--almost touching--as if arms to embrace it; even as the highest pinion of the hawk's outstretched left wing brushes against the mummy. I see in this representation something made like (fac-simile) the curving-shape of the Lotus Lion Ram cryptogram found on Facsimile 2 (and even more closely resembling the same cryptogram as depicted on pSalt 825), as also the tendril-like phi spiral that stamps our facsimile with life (One Eternal Round, Chapter 15). Tendrils? What else should appear on a gracefully drawn vign-ette?

Embraces? Here's a hint at Facsimile 3 as well, in which each of the five figures beckons to, touches, or embraces the other in one eternal hug. They all wish to be brought into the picture--our picture. Osiris and Abraham were partakers of royal honors and glory: the priest Hor, as joint-heir, wishes to join in. Take another look.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: The Lotus Lion Ram Cryptogram

The lower, upside-down, panel of Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 gives us three hieroglyphic signs Lotus Lion Ram. (The three signs appear just to the left of the four sons of Horus.) Here is the solar prime number found in Egyptian writings (3+4=7) that completes by sevens the generative workings of the lower panel, at whose center we find the Hathor cow, mother of the sun, and thus mother of all. The three signs stand by the four mummies to trick them back to life: it's the renewal of the whole earth, just as the Prophet Joseph says.

So what does Lotus Lion Ram signify?

Marie-Louise Ryhiner, "A propos les trigrammes pantheistes," Revue d'Egyptologie 29 (1977), reads these signs as the solar phases of Morning, Noon, Setting (see also One Eternal Round, 227 n.176), and as a cryptogram with acrophonic reading: s-m-s, which, when read against the lexicon, yields two words reflecting the creative forces of the sun--and of Hathor, as female sun: Eldest and the One who continually gives birth, or who continually brings forth creation. To the point is the following statement found on another hypocephalus: jh.t wr.t ms(j) r' (the great cow gives birth to the sun), see John Gee, "Toward an Interpretation of Hypocephali," in Le Lotus qui sort de terre, 2001.

Hugh Nibley uniquely reads Lotus Lion Ram as descriptive of the food chain and, moving from that point, of the eternal workings of organic life (sometimes replaced on hypocephali with a simple Khepri-beetle). His reading has always puzzled me, but the keen observation shows Nibley at his intellectual (read: intuitive) best, as we shall see (see One Eternal Round, 302-4).

Professor Ryhiner decodes the cryptogram by reading it first as a logogram: Lotus Leaf-Lion-Ram. To Ryhiner's reading, I would also add the variant for "Ram" written in Greek letters: "Ram, son of the Ewe", or Eg. zr z3 zr.t = s-s-s, another palindrome with hints of Hathor and birth, as also suggestive of the shaking of the sistrum to stir life into being. Again, consider the palindrome that takes center place in the triad Horus-smsw-Re, found in the Coffin Texts. Ryhiner also reads the cryptogram as an acrophon: s-m-s (with the corresponding lexical meanings); and as theme: The Sun has three phases: Chepre-Re-Atum = Dawn-Noon-Setting). Here we might also recall the three levels, three degrees, or even the three figures (Kolob--Oliblish--Enish-go-on-dosh), which Hugh Nibley remarks in the make-up of the hypocephalus--and indeed of the universe itself!

To these Logogrammatic, Acrophonic, and Thematic Readings, I add two more: Homonymic Word-play and Graphemic Substitution. The Egyptian word for lion, by homonymic substitution, can be read renew and beloved, and the Egyptians played on the word in just this manner (for one example: Lion-Ram: Ram-Beloved = m3j b3 sr But it is renewal (m3wj and causative sm3wj) that lion (m3j) most often spells. Thus: The Lotus renews the Ram, and vice-versa (ts-phr--so the tag that often accompanies the cryptogram). And by homonymic substitution, Ram (sr) also stands for Osiris (wsjr), and, just maybe, Lotus Leaf, srp.t, for sr p.t, Lord of Heaven = Re. Here stands revealed the Re/Osiris theme of renewal (One Eternal Round, 39ff.).

Egyptian ritual seems so mechanical when contrasted with the utter joie de vivre that meets us everywhere in the paintings and writings. The whole thing, it turns out, for these ancient but lively gens d'esprit, is based on love.

Finally, Graphemic Substitution comes into play with the writing of the trigram in the Demotic Magical Papyrus, which substitutes a knife sign for the lion, a hide for the ram. Here is a hint at renewal through sacrifice and at the subsequent(?) draping of the image of Osiris in the ram's skin, symbolic of the union of Re and Osiris, as earnest of resurrection in the Ritual of the House of Life, a top-secret book with stern prohibitions--if you talk, you die (pSalt 825).

Curiously enough, the same papyrus shows the trigram Lotus Lion Ram written as one "animal" or "process": the curved stem of the lotus leaf appears as the tail of the lion, and the animal itself sports two heads, lion and ram (with curved horns), the bifrons, Kolob aspect. In the Netherworld Books the wavy ram's horns can also write the word of transformation and coming into being: xpr.w (the Khepri-beetle again). The curving of the lotus stem, lion's tail, and ram's horns all speak to the unquenchable and exponential patterns of growth--tendrils busting out all over. And here we must mention the breathtaking phi spiral that stamps Abraham's Facsimile 2, among Nibley's most stunning discoveries (ps. 611ff.). The cryptogram Lotus Lion Ram runs as palindrome both linguistically and pictorially.

Brother Nibley was right on the money with the deepest reading of all: here is the food chain, both life and death; here, the organic cycle of life. One Eternal Round.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

What does Liahona mean? Hugh Nibley's Method for Explaining Names in the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham

Because I've been writing on names in the Book of Mormon, I find instructive, humbling, and sobering the following homily on parallelism, evidence, fun, method, silliness, and argument. Here stands revealed Hugh Nibley's greatest intellectual gift--plain, ordinary, common sense (Hugh Nibley, Since Cumorah, Chapter 9, note 80):

"The usual practice in explaining the word Liahona [suggesting a whole lot of daft tries] is to consult dictionaries of Hebrew and cognate languages, searching out words that begin with li-, aho-, hona-, etc., and to speculate on the most likely combinations. It is a pleasant game that anyone can play [that deft touch of irony], and since there are well over a hundred [!] possible combinations which, if we allow for simple and well-known sound-shifts, can be run into thousands, there is plenty of fun for everybody--provided we don't get the idea that our guesses are significant. When we are dealing with possible meanings of possible syllable combinations, there is such latitude that rigorous demonstration is out of the question. It is only when the Book of Mormon is both peculiar and specific--in such names as Paanchi, and such tales as the story of Joseph's two garments--that parallels become significant" (italics added).

So when do names and symbols become "both peculiar and specific"? Where down the line(s) do "parallels become significant"? And how does the phrase "rigorous demonstration" apply to latter-day scholarship on the ancient world? These are good questions. And somebody ought to sort these kinds of matters out.

Hugh Nibley continues with a bit of guessing of his own, though never leaving argument or common sense behind:

"Our own preference has always been for Le-yah-hon-na, literally, "to God is our commanding," i.e. "God is our guide," since hon hwn [the long o appears in Coptic], is the common Egyptian word for "lead, guide, take command." This might be supported by the oldest and commonest of all known inscriptions on divination arrows: "My Lord hath commanded me," but as long as scores of other explanations are possible, it is nothing but the purest guesswork."

Contrary to oft-repeated claims, Hugh Nibley did not revel in parallel mania. The phrase "this might be supported," even when at play (and Nibley always says when he's at play), shows his constant insistence on argument and evidence.

Following Nibley's lead, let's do a bit more guessing (but with much less argument):

If we posit that Lia- signifies Egyptian Re, given that Liao or Lia apparently reflects the original pronunciation of Re (a later, attested variant is Lah), then Lia-hona might yield: Lia, the one who) guides or commands. Even better: r-r'-hwn or l-r/l'-hwn "to Lia or Lah or Ra is our commanding," i.e. "Re is our Guide," or even, "Daylight is our Guide." The image of Re as the encompassing globe of the cosmos links the idea of guiding light with that of the spherical compass.

The setting, says Nibley, is the desert, the home of divination arrows. There are the shifting sands, but what about the sea? Nephi also uses the Liahona to direct his ship: "I, Nephi, did guide (hnj?) the ship," he says (1 Ne. 18:32). So here's a sea change: Re steers or navigates is a third possible reading, with -hona as, perhaps, the active participle of Eg. hnj, to steer with rudders, in this case the rudders of the solar bark. The two rudders of the solar bark compare well to the two spindles of the Liahona, a spherical reflection of that cosmos the sun god navigates. Sailors use compasses, after all; and the Sun and his light always point the way.

And then there's the bees (Abraham in Egypt, 255 n.88).

Notes: The quotation found in Since Cumorah, Chapter 9, note 80 is taken from "The Liahona's Cousins," IE 64 (Feb. 1961), 104.

Hugh Nibley adopted Reynolds's and Sjodahl's reading Li-Yah, but not their reading of -on as Heliopolis (or Sun City), George Reynolds and Janne Sjodahl, Commentary on The Book of Mormon I:188 (for Reynolds's etymology and relevant discussion see Book of Mormon Onomasticon, an unpublished document prepared under the direction of Dr. Paul Y. Hoskisson, of the Willes Center for Study of The Book of Mormon at the Neal A. Maxwell Institute housed at BYU).

For the original pronunciation of Re as *liao or *lia, see Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction, 31, 35, 248 n. 56 (and class notes), who, following the graphemic evidence, also logically gives *ria. The original /r/ phoneme in proto-Egyptian, however, shows an outcome of glottal stop, which is written with the so-called aleph grapheme. As for the original /l/ (which differs from the Semitic /l/ phoneme): "By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom, as part of the global reorganization of liquid phonemes," any "opposition between /l/ and other sonorants" was merged or neutralized, and the so-called "r"-grapheme thus comes to mask more than one phonological outcome" (35). In other words, Re was pronounced both as ria and lia depending on the dialect or even idiolect of the speaker. While the lambdicism may have been rarer, evidence for the reading Amoun-Lah does appear in graffiti at Abydos dating from AD 202 (Paul Perdrizet, Gustave Lefebvre, "Les graffites grecs du Memnonion d'Abydos"). The evidence, then, for a sometimes pronunciation of Re with /l/ stretches over thousands of years and reflects the original merging of the sonorants. (I often note a similar phenomenon in spoken Swahili.) The Lehites may have pronounced our Liahona as either L-liahona, L-riahona, Liahona, Riahona, or even Lahona; at any rate, Alma, writing some 500 years after Lehi, gives us the spelling Liahona.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Olimlah (Facsimile 3, Book of Abraham)

I like Hugh Nibley's reading of the name Olimlah, a slave of the Egyptian prince in Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham: Ol-im-lah, Great is Amun-Re (wrj jmn-r'), Abraham in Egypt, 588. Here is specificity. What we see here, though not in hieroglyphs, is supposed to be an Egyptian name--and it is (Facsimile 3:

Clear, specific, and compelling: Yet, without determinatives (those added hieroglyphs that provide the key to any word's meaning), the first two elements of the name remain up for grabs.

We could thus also posit wrj mj r' or even wrj mj jmn-r', Great like (Amun)-Re, with Oli- as wrj and -m as mj (like), a construction which matches the Egyptian name Rekhmire (rx mj r', Omniscient like Re).

A fourth and a fifth guess, with barely a blink, would be '3(j) jmn-r' and '3 mj r' (Great is Amun-Re; Great like Amun-Re). '3j (great, a synonym of wrj) fits just as well as wrj since the ayin (') often appears in Coptic with the outcome of o and the aleph (3) corresponds, at least in earliest Egyptian, to the Afroasiatic laterals r and l = Oli-.

For the Middle Kingdom, Wrj jmn-r' works best though.

The name of the sun god, Re, was originally (and variously) pronounced as liaw or lia: Lia-hona, to be sure--or even Le-hon-ti; and what about Olea Shinehah?

The Prophet, by further revelation, thus throws open a flood of light upon the Book of Mormon names as well.

I like this inscription in Greek letters (AD 202):

May I see Isis with Osiris. May I see Amun-Lah.

The British say Ra, the Germans Re. I like Re, but Lah makes you rethink everything you ever learned. How wonderful to think that we, with all our encyclopaedic wisdom, don't even know how to say the names of the Egyptian gods correctly.

Notes: Inscription in Greek letters found in Pierre Lacau and Perdrizet and Lefebvre.

For Re as Liao or Lia in both proto-Egyptian and also later, as dialectal and even idiolectal variant of Ria (the "r"-grapheme masks both "phonemes"), see Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction, 31, 35, and class notes. The Lehites may have pronounced Liahona as either Liahona or Riahona (or Lahona)--it's all good Egyptian--and our own ears (and likely Alma's ears too, after half a millennium) might not have even noted a difference. I note the same allophones everyday in spoken Swahili.

Lia-hona could, theoretically, be read as either Re is the one steers or navigates or to Re is the steering (l/r-ria/lia-hona; the last element, hona, being perhaps the active participle of Eg. hnj, to steer with rudders; esp. of the solar bark; cf. Hugh Nibley's reading of the name). The two rudders of the solar bark find a match in the two splindles of the Liahona globe, a spherical reflection of the cosmos that the sun god navigates.

The name of the Lamanite king, Lehonti, could reflect the same roots, or perhaps be read R'-hwn.ti (Youthful or Rejuvenated Re) after the pattern of the attested epithet Hr-hwn.ti (Youthful Horus).

Olea suggests a common root for names of both sun and moon (Hebrew Ya-reah).

Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, Figure 5: An Egyptian Reading of Enish-go-on-dosh

Note to the Reader

For an updated, shorter version of the following essay, see:

The Prophet Joseph Smith begins his explanation of Figure 5 (the Hathor cow) on Facsimile 2 of the Book of Abraham as follows: "Is called in Egyptian Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing planets also, and is said by the Egyptians to be the Sun." He speaks further of a certain "governing power" or "grand key" by means of which the sun, in successive cascade, receives its own light and power. The transfer of stellar and solar light from one god or one sphere to another is a motif in Egyptian art (see Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round). (Facsimile 2 and Explanation:

Is the name Enish-go-on-dosh Egyptian? Nothing about the form in which the name appears precludes such an origin, and it can certainly be so read. A larger question becomes whether any plausible Egyptian reading of the name also matches the depictions found on Facsimile 2 or the explanations the Prophet gives for the facsimile? Or can any parallels be found in the hieroglyphic record? Does Enish-go-on-dosh, in any way, recall Egyptian names for heavenly bodies? for example, Hor-dosh-dawy, a name for Jupiter? Mars as Hor-dosh? or spectacular Saturn, Hor-ko-pi-ranef-siu-yaminty-jo-pi?

The Latter-day Saints need not prove anything to a non-reflective and unbelieving world. We just have to be grateful. "Fools mock, but they shall mourn" (Ether 12:26). A seer gives insight into things "which otherwise could not be known" (Mosiah 8:17). Everybody already "knows" Re, Horus, Isis. The names the Prophet supplies, we must remember, likely address or describe the various figures in light of their placement and configuration on the hypocephalus. The word to keep in mind is nuance--and note the careful qualifiers: "In this case, in relation to this subject," the Sun is not "called in Egyptian" Re or Rait (the female sun), rather Enish-go-on-dosh (see Explanation for Facsimile 1, Figure 12). As Sir Norman Lockyer, a perceptive astronomer, pointed out long ago, the Egyptians had special Horus names for "the planets and constellations when rising" (The Dawn of Astronomy, 149, italics added).

Professor Kent Weeks further reminds the egyptologist, for whom such seeming ordinary things "can be terribly misleading," that labels, colors, names often speak to states, stages, phases, actions; they are not fixed stars ("Art, Word, and the Egyptian World View," in Egyptology and the Social Sciences, 63ff.). Long-established, generic animal names may thus turn out to name an animal in a particular ritual setting alone, and not in nature. An ordinary color word, like dshr (dosh), ultimately shows up the much-thumbed lexicon as being circular in definition and thus "nothing very imaginative" (dshr is not "just" red--it's also yellow).

Consider the following alternative name--a dosh name, no less--for one of the sons of Horus (the Prophet Joseph also introduces alternative, ritually specific labels for the very same entities): Dosh-iati-imi-hawt-ins (the one whose two eyes are red [dSr.ty], who dwells in the House of Scarlet, i.e., the Horizon; sometimes also called the House of Dosh, dSr.w, redness). Find that in the handbooks. Track down your local egyptologist. And let's certainly be grateful the Prophet spared the Latter-day Saints a like embarrassing monstrosity! Dosh?! Posh! Every bit as nonsensical appears Enish-go-on-dosh, which formally recalls the very same name, though in reverse order (jns-go-on-dosh = dosh-go-on-jns).

O, do go-on! And let's start by reviewing the iconography of Facsimile 2, the round Egyptian hypocephalus.

In the Lower Panel of the hypocephalus we find the bird-serpent Nehebkau offering the Wedjat Eye (Eye of Horus or Eye of Re) to the seated Horus Min. Next we see that same Eye personified as Wedjat, a divine lady, who, in turn, conveys her power to the Hathor Cow (or Rait, the feminine sun and Eye of Re). The scene then moves to the four mummified sons of Horus, standing face-to-face with Hathor, followed by the famous solar cryptogram of Lotus--Lion--Ram, a riddle of solar renewal. The stage-by-stage transfer of vital, renewing energy is what the Wedjat Eye is all about. The sun is about to rise. (For a full description and discussion of the panel see Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, and Hugh Nibley, "The Three Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," Provo: 1980.)

As I shall explain later on, I read the first element of the name, Enish-go-, as referring to the Wedjat Eye: Anesh- or Enish-go ('nx.t-q3j.t, the exalted Living Wedjat Eye). For -on-dosh I suggest both 'n(n) dsh (who turns back at the [solsticial or solar] borders; or who interlaces the borders, Eg. m'nn/m'nn.ty) and 'n.t-dsh, the Beautiful one [the beautiful eye] at the borders). It is not, in fact, an infrequent thing for a goddess to bear an epithet beginning with 'n.t (one Coptic spelling of which, auon, noted by John Darnell, sufficiently matches our -on). Some of these names much recall Enish-go-on-dosh: 'n.t x'w, the one who is beautiful [on-] in her (solar) manifestations [-go], that is, in her manifestations as the solar Eye, etc. Another reading, which I favor still more than the first, renders Enish-go-on-dosh as the Exalted Red Solar Eye (jnsj.t), even the Beautiful Eye in its Red Resplendence ('n.t dsh/dshr).

 In fact, none of these can be excluded, for it is in the nature of Egyptian to allow for more than one reading, especially where paronomasia and riddling come into play. Though reading Egyptian in the absence of hieroglyphs perforce remains a delicate matter, an interpretation which centers on the Wedjat Eye and its beauty (especially as manifest in the female sun) and on the working of solar reversal, or renewal partakes of such peculiar and specific clarity that we can approach rigorous demonstration.

A version of Book of the Dead Chapter 148 names or describes the solar Hathor as follows:

"She great of love, red of hair;/
oh foremost one residing in the mansion of the red one, beautiful rudder of the southern sky,/
she who is united with life, she of the red cloth."

"Red of hair" translates Egyptian dSr.t shnj.t (red of circuit, i.e., the circlets of hair--which also suggests the solar circuit); "mansion of the red one" (the red horizon) is Hw.t dSr.t; "she of the red cloth" (jns.t), may better be translated "she of redness," or the "red solar eye." The unique name-chain packs in a world complete: Solar Eye, Horizon, Redness, Scarlet, the Solar Circuit, the Beautiful Rudder ("one of the governing planets also") of the Southern Sky. Given such an elaborated name of redness for the Hathorian sun, can anyone lightly dismiss Hathorian Enish-go-on-dosh, "said by the Egyptians to be the sun"?

Hugh Nibley, in his 1980 article, "The Three Facsimiles from the Book of Abraham," gets the argument going, after first pointing out (ps. 72-3) that Enish- resembles Egyptian words like 'n and 'nt; and -dosh, the verb (or noun) t3sh (to delimit or mark boundaries; boundaries):

"En-ish, 'net, a ring, the smallest circle of time, (Worterbuch I, 188); 'n.s, 'n sw, etc., eternal return, turning in its course; 'nd.w the brilliance of the Sun (Wb. I, 207). . .-dosh Eg. d3sh, to divide up into parts (V, 487); the same as tash, to bound, to set limits, any boundary or marking off (V, 235)."

Nibley playfully calls Enish-go-on-dosh an "etymological salad bar" but concludes, with argument: "Each of these [corresponding Egyptian words] places the emphasis on the idea of marking off cycles of time or areas of space, as does the Explanation [of figure 5]," 73.

No further mention of the matter appears in Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes's One Eternal Round; for, according to Michael Rhodes: "The name does not seem to be Egyptian" but derives "from some foreign language" (Draper, Brown, Rhodes, The Pearl of Great Price: A Verse-by-Verse Commentary, 290-1). Yet the Prophet Joseph specifically says the name is Egyptian and that it was used by Egyptians to describe the sun.

Let's continue with Nibley's idea that -dosh has to do with the idea of boundary. 

On-dosh can be transcribed as Ayin-Nun or 'n + t3sh (pronounced d3sh). The verb 'n or 'nn means to turn or turn around or turn oneself about or around, turn away, return, turn back, bring back around, move counterclockwise, or can describe a ring or circle; or, as adverb: repeatedly. A like verb, n'w, signifies the same. t3sh refers to boundaries marked by stelae. To the point, the Berlin Dictionary informs us that the expression m-q3b can refer to something inside a t3sh, in this case clearly a circular delimitation or border. (M-q3b reminds us of Kolob = q-l-b ~ q-3-b).

In the inscriptions at Dendara Osiris appears in his shrine, then makes a ritual circumambulation (phr) of a temple, following which he descends to take his place in the midst of (m-q3b) his blessings, purifications, and so on, before going on to visit his sister amid great rejoicings (both marriage and homecoming); finally, he returns ('n=f sw r pr=f), as if a star in its revolutions, to his own "house" (Dendara I: 376, 9, ed., Sylvie Cauville). The entire divine progress describes a circle, with circles inside circles, and with the verb 'n(n) describing the "eternal return" to the place of beginning. Again, the procession, progress, or manifestation of Osiris, with its visits and descents to specific places, mirrors the stars.

The Egyptian verbs for rotation or the solar cycle include dbn, phr, and shnj. I further note the phrase: rdj 'n(n) hrw (causing to turn the day; who makes the day to turn (Woerterbuch I; Rainer Hannig, Grosses Handwoerterbuch), although in this case the phrase bespeaks "a turning of the day for the worst," an unlucky "downward spin" or "reversal." Still the expression intrigues, since the sun in its everyday course literally turns the day (repeats its circuit, retraces its bounds). 'n ever describes a circle: even the homonymous word for beauty ('n; 'nw) takes rise from the proportionality of a rounded countenance with its full, round eyes. Yet another variant, 'nn, according to Hannig, means to wind up, wrap; another, 'njw, signifies the circular appearance of sunlight on the horizon, and none of these ideas and images proves mutually exclusive. An Egyptian, reading the expression on-dosh, might well picture all three or four of these images: counterclockwise movement, the beauty of the eyes, the circle of light hovering on the horizon. Indeed, the word -dosh (border) describes the horizon as both limit and origin of light.

The phrase on-dosh thus could possibly mean the One who turns the circular boundary (markers as points of reference for measurement), which suggests the idea of royal as well as solar progress (progress: literally, to describe a circle), with the attendant visits to shrines like the pillar temple of Heliopolis along the way. Such shrines, when set in a circle, or the arc of a circle (in the shadow of the sun?), make up the boundary stones of a t3sh (all of which reminds the reader of the pilgrimage cycle described in the Egyptian text Leiden T32, which "mark[s] out the parameters of a 'cone of time'"). It is a turning from inside (m-q3b), not necessarily a rotation outside or around the border, that is being described here. All of which also recalls the wording found in the explanation for figure 5 about the "four quarters" of the earth and the "annual revolutions" of the sun, a clear reference to a tracing or mapping of solar movement by means of markers designed as points of orientation (compare the pyramidal benben stone of Heliopolis, Eg. Iunu, or place of the stone pillar, so prominent in Facsimile 2, as well as the emphasis on measurement in the Prophet's Explanation).

Yet turning the boundaries doesn't fit the transitive usage for 'nn. Another reading might consider 'n as the adverb for repetition and renewal now followed by the verbal form of the root d3sh: "delineating or marking the boundaries anew." As the sun goes a-progress, it forever marks the bounds of the heavens.

Here's a better idea: 'nn, given its root meaning of turning back, reversing, curving, bending (as in the shape of claws, jars, etc.), evokes the idea of the solstice. Upon reaching the farthest boundary stela (the t3sh or, later, d3sh), the sun reverses its course; the sun, like Osiris, comes back home. "The solstice," explains Giorgio di Santillana, "is the 'turning back' of the sun at the lowest point of winter [the dark depths of the Lower Panel of Facsimile 2] and at the highest point [where stands Oliblish] of summer" (Hamlet's Mill, 62). In the Books of the Netherworld m'nn.ty names the intertwined serpents, an Egyptian caduceus; Hugh Nibley sees the two serpents found by the figure of Kolob in Facsimile 2, fig. 1, as a reflection of the caduceus (see One Eternal Round). These serpents together represent both the moment of sleeping (potentiality) and also the moment of resurrection (actualization) (see David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram). It is the sun at winter solstice that binds the serpents into one m'nn.t, or one eternal round. (For the sun as universal binder the article to read is Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, "The Iconography of Durer's 'Knots' and Leonardo's 'Concatenation.")

The phrase on-dosh (if not the entire name, Enish-go-on-dosh) may thus describe the moment of winter solstice. The name describes but a moment--but what a moment! Life will go on. It also heralds the moment of resurrection, and for Hugh Nibley resurrection is the governing idea behind Facsimile 2. (In the scriptures trumpets interrupt the darkest hours with the brightest news.) And according to Professor B.H. Stricker, the Book of Breathings, the writing discovered with Facsimile 2, belongs to the celebration of the winter solstice (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 5, 29). The depiction of Sokar on Facsimile 2, Figure 4, leaves us with no other conclusion: the rites of Sokar, or in other words, the rites of Facsimile 2, are those of winter solstice (Nibley, Message, 268, etc). Columns (i.e., boundary stones; Heliopolis) mark the solstice: "I set up the columns to mark the solstice at the temple of Atum" (CT 79). The column receives the first solar plectrum-ray and transmits, or trumpets its song of life to the lowest depths (Message, 268-9). Although Hugh Nibley doesn't specifically tie the name Enish-go-on-dosh to these rites, Enish-go-on-dosh does appear as the governing planet of the dark side of the hypocephalus, the place where the sleeper comes soon awake.

To "-on ('nn) a -dosh (d3sh)" can be read either as "to run counter-clockwise" or "the one who runs counter-clockwise the marker," or "to counter or spin back the marker," meaning, to reverse course "at" the stone marker or pole. I know of no text attesting the phrase, although -dosh, as we shall see, does occur in Egyptian names for planets and stars. Worthy a glance is a possible phonological match between -dosh and the Hebrew star or constellation most often associated with the distant, northern, wintry sphere, 'sh or 'aysh (and Ayin and Daleth often correspond in Afroasiatic languages), although t3sh/tsh/dsh (boundary) as 'sh does stretch things. Etymologically, Ash is the Lioness (if 'sh and 'sh do match Arabic and Syric 'ayyut or 'yut as seems certain), although the Hebrews associate it with the arctic stars. Indeed, for Egyptians, the northern portion of a map (and the hypocephalus constitutes a map, according to Nibley) is to be found at bottom, with south at top. How so? Because South marks the cardinal point for the Egyptians, the source of the Nile as also the equatorial regions of Egypt. South evokes summertime. (Indeed, according to Book of the Dead Chapter 162, figure 2 of the hypocephalus, our Oliblish, standing on the southern apex of the circle, is the Mighty Lion).

From another perspective, fully Egyptian (and Semitic), when a vertical line divides the hypocephalus, North marks the left-hand side; South, the right (see Nibley, One Eternal Round, 596). And presto--the winter solstice idea remains firmly in place, for on the left we find both the Sokar Ship and the four mummified sons of Horus, who with the solar trigram Lotus-Lion-Lamb signal both the circumpolar stars and the machinery that works life's renewal (again the lion, a word that also means renewal).

On certain hypocephali (e.g., Shai-enen, Brussels E 6319) we further find three images of what I decode as another trigrammatic solar cryptogram: Ram shrine--Re Horakhty--Khepri-beetle, a puzzle which yields the well-known pair of Lotus-Lion-Ram, zr-3x-xpr (the ram, or setting/solstice sun becomes a radiant Akh, or glorified being; the sons of Horus also bear the label Akh). When read acrophonically (as Professor Ryhiner suggests we do), the cryptogram further yields s3x (to glorify as Akh; to make radiant), a dead ringer for the winter constellation s3h, which often, though not always, names Orion as the bright constellation lying opposite the Great Bear. (Orion constitutes the stellar manifestation, or ba of Osiris.) What for me clinches the connection between s3x and s3h are the following parallel lines in the Book of Breathings (l.3), the text most closely tied to the hypocephalus, which bring the words together: r s3x b3=f m p.t (to glorify his [Osiris'] Ba in heaven, etc.)/r psd h3.t=f m s3h m h.t nn.t nwt (to cause to shine his corpse as Orion in the nethersky womb of Nut; text found in Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 84; see also the comments about Orion and the afterlife and resurrection on ps. 84-5). Given the place of Orion in the womb of Nut, it is obvious why Orion, as earnest of the resurrection, appears in the cryptography on the Hathor cow panel right next to the contrasting Dipper. On the right-hand side of the hypocephalus, the blessed South, we find mirroring images of God seated upon His Throne in the bosom of eternity and revealing the key words of the Holy Priesthood (as symbolized by the Wedjat-eye).

The Return of Hathor, as Solar Eye, from a far land, forms part of an ageless epic cycle in Egyptian literature. As Wilhelm Spiegelberg shows, the ancient journey of Tefnut, the Solar Eye, (which is later on associated to the Hathor story) is "a nature-myth of cosmic origin based on the winter solstice" (One Eternal Round, 89, with reference to Spiegelberg, Der aegyptische Mythus vom Sonnenauge, 1917, p. 2; for Hathor's assumption of the Tefnut story, see also Geraldine Pinch, Handbook of Egyptian Mythology, 138). In the tale the Distant Goddess takes the form of cat or lioness and comes from the North (or sometimes from the East), One Eternal Round, 90f. And Hugh Nibley notes how Sirius, which the Book of Abraham names Shagreel, fits into the ritual picture: the attempt to sacrifice Abraham, a prophetic type of the sufferings and resurrection of Jesus Christ, takes place at the dark and dreary winter solstice.

The phrase on-dosh, like Shinehah, while marking the solstice, the return of the sun from darkness, also signifies One Eternal Round. (According to Nibley, the Book of Abraham word for the sun, Shinehah, describes that body in its eternal revolutions: shnj-nhh.) Most fitting, it is immediately behind the Four Sons of Horus, who face the Hathor cow, where we descry the cryptogram Sarpat Mawy Zar (Lotus Lion Ram), a mysterious expression which both describes the daily (and seasonal) phases of the sun and, by riddling, signifies sms (the One who continually brings into being, or brings to birth). S-m-s also makes up a palindrome, as the tag tz-phr (vice-versa) that often accompanies it makes doubly clear. On-dosh, sms, and Shinehah all come together as expressions of the eternal solar round. And each turn, each circumambulation, each wheeling about the axis of the world, leads to a higher rung on the great ladder, just as the hawk (Horus) ascends as it wheels. Re is the pivot of the cosmos, the center, as well as the one who circles. The Round described, the circular boundary, matches the image of the hypocephalus with its surrounding rim.

Inside (m-q3b) the rim is the Eye. So where can we find the Eye in Enish-go-on-dosh? Simple: Enish and on, as noted above, both recall the Egyptian word 'n.t or 'n.t=ts (beauty or the beautiful one/your beautiful one), which word takes the determinative for Eye or Eye with eye-paint, often represented as encircling the Eye. The word often describes Hathor, as Solar Eye, all of which recalls the Hathor cow termed Enish-go-on-dosh. (The masculine form of the word, 'n, also serves to describe the beauty of the Sun.)

Hathor embodies the solar power as the Eye. Dimitri Meeks and Christine Favard-Meeks note how Hathor's unblushing depiction "as a female countenance seen face-on" evokes "the face-to-face encounter between the sun and the element in which he appears at the moment of the creation [the four sons of Horus]. Thus Hathor can represent the solar eye" (The Daily Life of the Egyptian Gods, 236). No wonder Hathor is the mirror, the reflection of solar glory and, thus, of all creation. The Latin (and Greek) verb re-flect conveys the precise notion found in the Egyptian 'nn, that is, curving, shaping, turning, bending, refraction. Hathor, in a seasonal about-face, turns back the visage of the hidden sun to a forlorn world. Each reflection also marks an upward turn on the cosmic ladder, from light to light, in a dazzling ascent.

And yet her face is masked (see Nibley, Abraham in Egypt, 433). The face of the sun but masks the god behind the glory. We should remember also that for the Egyptians names are masks--and they are often secret. Enish-go-on-dosh is such a hidden name, a mask within a mask. As Heraclitus says: Nature loves to hide.

How about -go? The attested Egyptian phrase 'n.t x'w (the one who is beautiful of appearance or rising, or the one who is beautiful in respect of manifestation/rising = on-go-?) describes Hathorian Sunrise (Sylvie Cauville, Dendara I and III [Index]). Enish-go-on-dosh something evokes the beautiful solar Eye bursting upon the world at dawn and making its rounds about the sky, and especially that moment of seasonal turning. The Ancient Egyptians divide the solar role between male and female manifestations of the sun: thus Re and Rait (the morpheme -.t marks a feminine noun). Of the two, Rait is a sort of shadow sun, or yin, the sun masked in darkness. The phonological correspondence between x'j and -go isn't perfect, but the theme of sunrise does belong to Facsimile 2 in abundance: Kolob, in the turnings (Eg. dnb) of the universe, is depicted at the very moment of x'j, the sunburst, a crowning moment also fully captured in the thematically parallel root q3j (to be high, exalted). The verb dnb (to turn), by the way, etymologically matches the Semitic qrb/qlb, according to Professor Antonio Loprieno; q-r/l-b again being the root Rhodes and Nibley link with our Kolob. As the heart star turns or revolves, so turns the world--and all resolves into dawn.

The Greeks also spoke of stones and turning: "The heavens there turn around in the way a millstone turns" (Cleomedes, AD 150, cited in G. di Santillana, Hamlet's Mill). In Heraclitus' cosmos of paradox we find at center: "the slow seasonal pendulum swing [tropos] of the sun back and forth, the palintropos harmonie [a tie re-flected, turned back upon itself] by which the diversity and uniformity of the life cycle of nature is guaranteed" (Charles Kahn, The Art and Thought of Heraclitus, 199-200). The tropai (turnings) of the sun at the posts of the solstice stitches the very cord of life; it is "the law by which all things are governed" (Doctrine and Covenants 88:13), all of which mirrors Enish-go-on-dosh as "The One whose appearing is beautiful." Another try: Your beauty ['nt=ts] rises), [even] the one who brings about the Winter Solstice (returns at the boundary marker)."

The sun turns back at the universal bounds at the horizon, i.e., the two mountain peaks of the horizon ('n.t=ts/'n.t s.t x'j 'n[n] t3shw). The hieroglyph for horizon shows both evening and morning peaks, marking the boundaries of both day and night (time and space). It's all turned inside-out in fact, in-and-out of time, for the sun reverses night by an act of turning. Night is turned-away--rejected. Dawning, like solstice, becomes a curving back ('n, turn back, go counterclockwise), rather than a linear procession. Dawn becomes for the Egyptians a solstice in miniature: each sunburst reflects New Years' Day. Indeed, according to Nibley's comments in One Eternal Round, the actions described in the lower panel of the hypocephalus, Figures 5 through 7, are not only to be read in a line, from right to left, the reader must also consider the panel as turning, with hypocephalus as revolving globe.

The idea of sunrise calls up a line from the Joseph Smith Book of Breathings that describes the resurrected soul as x'j (arising, dawning) to a fullness of glory, step one, step two, step three (the coming full circle like the "three rounds of Jacob's ladder"--so Joseph Smith), and then setting forth on progress: "May you shine forth (x'j=k) in (m) your Perfect Form, in (m) the Adornments you have gathered about yourself, in (m) Life! So that your health may spring forth speedily as the morning (cf. Isaiah 58:8) that you may walk and breathe in every place" (cf. Greek, topos, place, world; compare translation by Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri). Or, succinctly: "May your path be straight and your course one eternal round." The hypocephalus and the Book of Breathings are intimately linked: you cannot have one without the other. That's why the Book of Breathings must be found with the other Abraham documents. The facsimiles illustrate both documents at once (Abraham's life and the Book of Breathings, Abraham and Osiris) in one unified whole.

Though the phrase 'n.t x'w [kh'w] does show phonological correspondence to our -on and -go-, I'm not convinced. A g for Egyptian x or kh? Two other options spring to mind. First, the phonological correspondence between the g and an Egyptian consonant represented by the cobra and conventionally, (that is, fictively), transcribed in textbook Egyptian as underlined d or D. The pronunciation of this second d becomes a matter for debate, but a correspondence with English g is not beyond the pale. For example, Professor Loprieno links that all-encompassing Egyptian word dshr, which refers to the sacred, to the Hebrew root g-z-r (recalling Gazelem in Alma 37:23). And one Egyptian root that possibly matches -go appears in Heinrich Brugsch's planetary tables: D3j [or j3, etc.], a verb of sailing, traversing space. To the Semitic ear, D3j might answer to -go. Here is an apparent closer fit, phonologically, than x'j, and the word specifically appears in names and descriptions of planets. Yet we must take into account the evidence from Coptic, evidence which shows the vocalic outcome of D3j as ch'i.

A better match (my favorite), both phonologically and conceptually, is perhaps then to be found in q3j (to be high, exalted). The god of the hypocephalus, the god of the Living wedjat-eye is described in the rim inscription as q3j! q3j! 3x! 3x! (Exalted in the highest; glorified beyond measure), and the word can also describe the stars of heaven (Woerterbuch V, 1.7). The Woerterbuch (V, 1. 16) also tells us that q3j and x'j often appear together and come to share a single or parallel significance, and thus q3j (to be raised high, exalted) often amounts to a synonym of x'j (to be manifest, manifest in glory). Such a nuance in meaning, which signals the dawn resurrection of the renewed sun, works best for both the rim inscription on the hypocephalus and for our -go: "The Living Solar Eye, raised, or manifest in glory."

For yet another try at -go-on, Hugh Nibley suggests a look at the word gnw.t (annals, records). That sounds like a longshot, but consider the following: "To be meaningful, the motions of the heavenly bodies must be measured and those measurements recorded: the Imperishable Stars of the Dipper are nothing less than the 'makers of the Annals (gnwt) of Hpr-Re, which reveal the secrets of the Places'" (Coffin Texts 125), The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 153. If the element -dosh reflects the Dipper, might not the element -go-on refer to the stellar Annals? (And compare the phrase gnw.t n.t Dr.w, in which Dr.w (borders, limits) recalls dsh.)

Enish- is another puzzler. But a bull's eye for Enish- appears in the epithet for Hathor as Ankhet (to be pronounced Ansh, or the like: the x-phoneme often, and early on, being realized as an sh), the "living" Wedjat Eye (Eye of Re, etc.). The word 'nx.t or, as a variant hieroglyphic spelling shows, 'ansh (Woerterbuch I, 205; Hannig II.1, 542: Coffin Texts IV 91k) is easily transcribed as Anish, Anesh, Onish, or Enish). Here Wedjat Eye spells Life, just as in the Lower Panel of the hypocephalus, in which a goddess whose head is represented as the Wedjat transfers vitality to the Hathor Cow, the mother of the sun god. And consider the following text, which shows much word play (translation in David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 176):

'nx.t '
The 'nx.t-eye lives [or the Living One (fem.) lives]
the pupil is protected [or the little maiden in the pupil is rejuvenated = hwn.ty],
dfd smn(.w) m st.=f
the iris [or pupil] is established in its seat.

According to Klotz, this text correlates closely to the themes and wording of the hypocephalus (ibid., Chapter 7).

Enish-go-on-dosh might then yield: "The Living One (fem), as Exalted Eye of Re (or, as traversing the heavens [Eye and boat = Figure 3]), even the One who turns back at the farthest boundary (ie, at the moment of Winter solstice)." Again, another interpretation would be to understand the element -on as a noun, 'n.t, the beautiful one (or the beautiful eye). According to the Woerterbuch, the noun first appears only in Greek texts; yet, as Professor Antonio Loprieno reminds us, in certain dialects of ancient Egyptian the hieroglyphic expression for eye (written as jr.t) was always pronounced "ain" or the like (A. Loprieno, in Festschrift J. Lopez). And, as we have seen, 'n, when written with the determinative sign of a painted eye, also means beauty, including solar and Hathorian beauty.

To read Egyptian is to eschew exclusivity: the mind must remain open to multiple readings. Though I read -on-dosh in relation to the solsticial windings of the sun, at the same time I very much like the idea of -on-dosh as 'n.t dsh, "the beautiful one (= solar eye) of the boundary (or, horizon)." "The exalted Living Wedjat Eye, the beautiful eye of the (solsticial or horizontal) boundary": the translation is simple and makes sense. Consider how the two halves of the name, Enish-go and on-dosh, come together paronomastically and thematically. Enish ('nsh) and on ('n), phonetic matches, play on each other as expressions of the beautiful and life-granting solar Eye, while -go (q3j) and -dosh (dsh) answer to the idea of borders, limits, and the far. By reading the name as an elaborate play on words, we descry a lively northern star glistening, resplendent, at the borders of the sky; and I can't resist comparing yet again Egyptian -dosh in planetary names with the phonologically similar 'ysh (-d ~ 'ayin), the celestial object in Job 38:32, which the KJV renders as Arcturus.

Our resplendent Enish-go-on-dosh makes up a circular, gemlike couplet: 'nsh q3j/'n dsh. Here we have something of the "peculiar and specific," which for Hugh Nibley becomes the criteria for any explanation of names in the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price. But can such a name match any known Egyptian designations for heavenly objects?

We noted how the verb D3j describes movement through space: D3j-bnw-wsir (Traverses by boat--Phoenix--Osiris) names the planet Venus; Hr-k3-p.t-rn=f-sb3-imntj-D3j-pt (Horus--Bull of Heaven--His Name--Star-Western--Traversing Heaven), Saturn. If such concoctions (names? really?) somehow recall the Prophet's eye-popping Kae-e-van-rash, Enish-go-on-dosh, and Kli-flos-isis (Brugsch even employs the Prophet's dashes to separate the disparate elements of the name-chains), note further the striking possibilities in verbal correspondence: Kae and k3 (and the astronomical x'j), sb3 (or sjw) and -isis, -vanrash and bnw-wsjr, and -go and q3j and D3j. 

Now let's turn to: -dosh and dshr and t3sh, ch3sh, tsh, or ds. Consider a variant of the Egyptian name for the planet Jupiter: Hr t3shw-t3.wj (Hor-dosh-dawy: Horus, the circling falcon, the divider, setter of bounds for the Two Lands), a name found in connection with the verb of traversing the heavens: D3j. Two Lands here signifies not only Egypt, but the mirroring cosmos itself. Another celestial Hor-dosh is Mars. But in this case -dosh metonymically describes Horus as the red (tosh) planet, and we must also imagine the color of the Ihet-cow as red (Woerterbuch V, 489.7). A note on phonology: The most common Egyptian color word for red is d-sh-r, but, through the workings of metathesis, the weak -r phoneme changes places with the -sh, and thus comes to yield darsh or tarsh (so Coptic); the word also often appears simply as d-sh.

The female sun attains poetic heights in one version of Book of the Dead Chapter 148:

"She great of love, red of hair;/
oh foremost one residing in the mansion of the red one, beautiful rudder of the southern sky,/
she who is united with life, she of the red cloth."

(John C. Darnell, The Enigmatic Books of the Solar-Osirian Unity: Cryptographic Compositions in the Tombs of Tutankamun, Ramesses VI, and Ramesses IX, dissertation, 105).

The phrase Hnm.t-'nx jnsj.t (she who is united with life, even she, the red one, or redness) plays on the words 'nx/'nsh (life) and jnsj.t (the lady of redness). To unite with life is here to unite with the sun on the red horizon, or "mansion of the red one" (the hw.t dshrw: tosh): red (jns) thus answers to life ('nx). Because the Woerterbuch (I, 100.14) defines jnsj.t as a name of the Eye of Horus (the color word jnsj comes from a bright red linen called jnsj), we are fully justified in drawing a correlation between jnsj.t and 'nx.t as names for the Female Solar Eye (cf. Woerterbuch I, 100 passim); unsurprisingly, dshr.t also names or describes the red Eye of Horus (Woerterbuch V, 489). Another playfully elaborated jnsj.t-name (for one of the sons of Horus) runs round as follows:, Dosh-iati-im-hawt-ins, He of the two red eyes who resides in the mansion of the red one (Matthias Rochholz, Schoepfung, Feindvernichtung, Regeneration, 111). And we must recall the vivid red that yet appears on a hypocephalus housed in Turin's Egyptian museum: red circles encompassing red circles, red Kolob, and red disks of the sun (best shown in a photograph by Art Pollard, on Flikr).

Because both jnsj.t and 'nx.t much recall our Enish, I might suggest the following reading for Enish-go-on-dosh:

The Exalted Red Solar Eye,
even the Beautiful One (or Beautiful Eye)
in its Redness (or in its quality as the Red Eye)
jns.t q3.t, 'n.t dshr ~ Anis-qo-on-dosh

The name--brim though it is with mirrorings and metonymy--doesn't quite match our own idea of beauty until we recognize that the solar red is anything but a red barn: it is a bright, clear, resplendent tide that flames like a ruby. Here is a precious "living stone," as well as "living Eye," a translucent diadem among stars (see 1 Peter 2:4-5). (The chapter to read on the connection between hypocephalus and rubies and sapphires is Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, "The Jewel of Discernment," One Eternal Round, Chapter 10, 423-462.) The Egyptians brought much poetry together into compact cryptonyms, and I favor the idea of the elements enish and dosh as radiating both life and redness, both beauty and the (red) borders (or border stones). After all, the epithet "red (or yellow) of hair" (lit. "that curled round red" = dshr.t shnj) clearly plays on the idea of the "red circuit" or "red eternal round" of the sun (circuit, shn.t). Redness, Beauty, Life, the Eye of Horus: all is one--and one eternal round. The exalted female sun, the Eye, as she navigates (D3j ~ the rudder) from the southern borders to the north, is both vibrantly and gloriously beautiful--both sun by day and flaming Arcturus by night.

The piercing jewel set in Hathor's crown shows the rubied sun itself, ensconced, as it is, between the rounded borders (or bows) of her two horns (cf. Joseph Smith--History 1:35). The correlation of Eye and Stone (and Crown), by the way, comes to perfection in the hypocephalus design: If the "hypocephalus itself," as Nibley says, is "a giant eye" (318), then it is also a fiery solar stone. The object, like a round sea of glass and fire, can therefore serve its purpose "to spark a flame under the head of a radiant spirit" (Book of the Dead Chapter 162; Doctrine and Covenants 88:11 = the two eyes, both the visible as also intellectual light). "And I, Abraham," as we are taught many times over in One Eternal Round, "had the Urim and Thummim, which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees [And I, Abraham, had the hypocephalus: it is not given to us this Urim and Thummim, but we do have Abraham's hypocephalus and Abraham's matchless stars!]; And I saw the stars, that they were very great" (Abraham 3:1-2). . .

These are the governing ones (Abraham 3:3). As the great planet Jupiter--a governing power--journeys through time and space in its "annual revolutions," it sets the bounds (because it knows the bounds) of the cosmos. Another name for Jupiter bespeaks the same thing. Horus, the Determiner (wpj, to judge, determine, divide) of the Two Lands really means Horus, the Determiner of the bounds of the Two Lands (Hr wpj t3.wj = *Hr wpj t3sh.w t3.wj). A third name meets the first, with the letters t, 3, and sh playfully, mysteriously, transposed: Hr wpj sht3 (Horus, opener of the mystery). Here, wpj sht3 takes rise, by means of word play, from the hieroglyphs of expanses of water and tracts of land, and the mystery may thus be explained as the mystery of knowing the universe in its entirety. The opener of water and land becomes the discerner (wpj) of mysteries (for the names of the planets see Heinrich Brugsch, Thesaurus Inscriptionum Aegyptiacarum I, 67ff., published 1883).

And is it too much to suggest a correspondence between the planetary Horus who sets the bounds and makes the rounds and the four sons of Horus that the Hathor cow faces in Facsimile 2, Figure 6? The four sons, as if four stones, represent both "this earth in its four quarters" and the four corporal extremities, even as they further reflect the four bright corner or bowl stars of the Dipper (Pyramid Texts, 573, Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri, 113; An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 301). Next to these four come the three cryptic figures (Lotus-Lion-Ram) that stand for the renewing revolutions of space, time, and the sun, the universal crank that turns the starry heavens. "If the world can find out these numbers, so let it be": 4 + 3 = 7, the number of completion, the universe in its entirety, and the tally of the Dipper. And, to be sure, the sons of Horus at times number seven (Matthias Rochholz, Schoepfung, Feindvernichtung, Regeneration, 111-12). No wonder, then, given the positioning of the Hathor cow as facing earth's four boundary markers, followed by the three added symbols of solar renewal, that "in this case, in relation to this subject" the cow "is said by the Egyptians to be the sun." The symbols (which make up -on-dosh) "fitly framed together," the long, descriptive name begins to make sense. The cow represents, at once, both sun and bright northern star.

To see things entire, we need to add 1 to 4, the center place plus the cardinal points, (Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham, 329ff). All of which explains why the number fifteen is so central to Facsimile 2 and the Egyptians. Fourteen plus one builds on the analogy of four plus one, in which the odd number completes the whole. We only need to get past the deep number ten: 4 and 14 and 5 and 15--then we ascend (for 10 as the deep number, see Antonio Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian; Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 295ff). In the Book of the Netherworld (Amduat), the 15th star, soaring above two rows of seven stars, is the greatest of them all, the sun with outstretched wings. It soars above the man with outstretched arm: At the lowest point of the netherworld [winter solstice], the heavens are opened (Erik Hornung, Amduat, 66-7). The Book of Abraham, as the Prophet Joseph pointed out in his final doctrinal discourse, has much to say about the idea of 2 things (or 2 intelligent men), and of a third who may be greater (wiser) still. And then: "I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all" (Abraham 3:19).

These name-or-number-chains--again, much recalling Enish-go-on-dosh, Kli-flos-isis, and Kae-e-vanrash--all show Horus Jupiter in the likeness of the sun (Re Horakhty = Re-Horus of the Horizon), a mirror image coursing the higher regions. The names are interchangeable; the power is one. Do the sun and Jupiter share (i.e., receive, exchange, borrow and lend) their powers in the fashion described by the Prophet in his Explanation of Facsimile 2? With Horus dosh-tawy as Jupiter in the image of the sun, we find a reflection of Enish-go-on-dosh as "one of the governing planets also, and [it] is said [note that disclaimer said] by the Egyptians to be the Sun."

In like manner, what Egyptians (and Egyptologists) also call the Sun, even dominant Figure 1 of the hypocephalus, the Prophet, with an eye on the mirroring of power, hierarchy, and glory, terms Kolob, a super-sun. Re is sometimes called a star (sb3), and indeed any star can be called a Re (r'), thus any star or planet can be "said by the Egyptians to be the Sun." The Egyptians knew the sun to be a star.

What is on earth is mirrored in the sky, world upon world, "one planet above another, until thou come nigh to Kolob" (Abraham 3).


I've updated the material in this essay several times. The essay is intended for young readers of the Book of Abraham who love to reflect on the meaning of scripture--or who love puzzles (as Hugh Nibley puts it, speaking of these odd names). Another purpose is that of the "second look": I invite other readers, including those new to the Book of Abraham, to take a second look at what that book has to offer. I have no interest whatsoever in polemics or religious controversy. A copy of the Book of Abraham may be found online on

Hugh Nibley, in "The Liahona's Cousins," Improvement Era 64 (Feb. 1961), 104, explains his method of reading Book of Mormon names. Etymologies approach "rigorous demonstration" when the names meet the criterion of "peculiar and specific" to both the Book of Mormon context and that of a known fact, time, place, custom, literary topos or motif, place in a text, or ritual from the Ancient Near East. Short of such rigor, it's okay, even great fun, to guess at the meaning of a name, absent pontification.

One Eternal Round is the book to consult for: the etymology of Kolob and Shinehah (250ff; 333f.); the pilgrimage cycle on papyrus Leiden T32 (120f.); the significance of the Heliopolis (pillar) signs on the rim of Facsimile 2 (202); the construct of the hypocephalus as Solar Eye (315ff.); and the connection between the hypocephalus and the Book of Breathings: 142ff., 205-6). A reproduction of the Shai-enen hypocephalus can be found on page 638.

"The three principal rounds of Jacob's Ladder:" Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 304-5 (as so often cited by Hugh Nibley in his writings on Egypt. Sara Leavitt reportedly saw "Jacob's Ladder" depicted on the Joseph Smith Papyri (source: Book of Abraham Project Web page of W.V. Smith). We have no idea what Sister Leavitt might have seen; on the other hand, could the term ladder also apply to the rounds of the hypocephalus?

Lotus Lion Ram: For both its significance as representative of the solar phases (noted in Nibley and Rhodes, 302ff.) and as a cryptogram with acrophonic reading, see M.-L. Ryhiner, "A propos les trigrammes pantheistes," Revue d'Egyptologie 29 (1977). To the point is the following statement found on another hypocephalus (Berlin 7792: jh.t wr.t ms(j) r' (the great cow who gives birth to the sun), see John Gee, "Toward an Interpretation of Hypocephali" in Le Lotus qui sort de terre, 2001; a reproduction of Berlin 7792 may be found in One Eternal Round, 322, Figure 37. Further discussion of Lotus Lion Ram and Ram Akh [Re-Horachty] Khepri-beetle (and other solar or Re/Osiris) cryptograms can be found in my Papyrus British Museum 10808 and Its Cultural and Religious Setting (Brill, 2006), 149 n. 23, 162 n.78, 168f.

Dipper: The names of the four stars of the bowl of the Dipper, in accord with the four corners of the earth, might just as well also be termed Elkenah, Libnah (or Zibnah), Korash, and Mahmackrah. After all, Brother Phelps, in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, lists a certain Crashmackraw as a celestial body.

What Hugh Nibley Meant: Since the word bs (spark or flame), associated with the purpose of the hypocephalus in Book of the Dead 162, finds as homonym the word for initiation into the Egyptian secrets, we are safe in concluding that the hypocephalus, just like the Book of Breathings, also is a document of initiation. No wonder Facsimile 1, attached as it is to a Book of Breathings, is followed--but only in the inspired Book of Abraham!--by the hypocephalus, as Facsimile 2. I trace the idea of two meanings back to Hugh Nibley, and if I cannot find an exact page reference, the notion yet is everywhere implied throughout his writings. Page 233, for instance, suggests the Wedjat Eye as source of the bs. Given the notion of Wedjat Eye as a key unlocking the heavens to the patriarchs, shall we not also then say that the notionality of bs here, too, suggests initiation? This is what Brothers Rhodes and Nibley are trying to express. 

The idea of Father Abraham as initiand would be sufficient reason for including his record among these scraps of papyrus. The priest, Hor, who owned some of these documents aspires to possess "greater knowledge," even as Abraham, and through Abraham, Pharaoh. The Theban priesthood in Ptolemaic times would have included direct line descendants, or claimants, from the Pharaoh of Abraham's day. And the preservation (and copying) of such records throughout the centuries? Is it far-fetched? No, Abraham himself gives the example of just such textual transmission from the most ancient fathers in Abraham 1. That's the pattern; that's all we need to know, really. These records of Abraham and Joseph, including documents therewith associated (as these either existed in Abraham's day or also were later articulated or composed according to ancient Abrahamic ritual patterns), were passed down directly (or rediscovered, then passed down) through the royal lineage of the fathers to their priestly heirs in Thebes. The Egyptians had libraries, but every indication suggests the Joseph Smith papyri were family (lineage) documents, and indeed constituted the very authority (i.e., secret knowledge) that confirmed priests like Hor and his father in their offices. They, too, "would fain claim the priesthood," through Abraham and Pharaoh. . . 

Since Nibley published his study of the Book of Breathings as an Egyptian Endowment Ceremony, Latter-day Saint Egyptologists, following the lead of Professor Mark Coenen's clarifying publications on the ancient owners and dating of the Joseph Smith Book of Breathings, have all noted that Hor's lot in the priesthood includes an Ancient Canaanite Resheph-Min office (Resheph or Min who [ritually] massacres his enemies), and thus answers to the action of sacrifice depicted on Facsimile 1! The Egyptian priesthood would equate the notion of sacrifice and that of resurrection, for each notionally requires the other. To students of Egyptology that paradox of Osirian ceremony in which the sharp-clawed jackal, Anubis, both cuts into and wraps the body, preparatory to its resurrection, is well-known. Facsimile 1, at once, illustrates both the theme, or priestly action of Osirian resurrection found in the Book of Breathings and the sacrifice and escape (in token of resurrection) of Abraham as pattern or reflection thereto. The Egyptians found in Abraham's heralded escape from certain sacrificial death a living token, or surety of Osirian promise. That's what Brother Nibley meant to convey, and the latest findings are bearing him out. 

In fact, there is nothing that attests more to the reality of an actual Egyptian record of Abraham and Joseph than the Hor Book of Breathings (an Egyptian Endowment), along with its Facsimiles 1 and 3. The discovery of the papyri, as we now have it, thus paradoxically delivers more evidence of an authentic Egyptian context for Abraham (including related texts like the Apocalypse of Abraham)--speaking to intellectual history--than if we had simply recovered the very papyrus portions from which the Prophet Joseph had translated the record itself. And that's what Hugh Nibley meant.

Copyright 2010 by Val Sederholm