Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review of Hugh Nibley on Facsimile 3 of the Book of Abraham

As I re-read the 32 pages of Hugh Nibley's "All the Court's a Stage: Facsimile No. 3, A Royal Mumming," I marvel at the coherence and precision of the essay, among the finest in all of egyptological literature (Abraham in Egypt, 116-148). The challenge Nibley confronts is steep. As he notes, none of the Prophet Joseph's "enigmatic interpretations" reflects common sense: the man on the throne is not the king but Abraham; Pharaoh and the Prince of Egypt appear to be delectable goddesses; and the figure with upraised hand, who, by all rights, should be Abraham preaching to the king, is some butler named Shulem. That's not all: a bouquet of lotus blossoms "signifies Abraham in Egypt."

In a tightly knit yet beautifully written and generously flowing piece, Nibley moves logically from puzzle to puzzle: King as Isis, Prince as Maat, and King Abraham. Never abandoning ordered argument, Nibley remains the master of every situation, the unraveler of every difficulty, the able counsel for the defence who marches the scholars to the stand, witness after witness, to argue the case. In the end, the case made with measure and care, and overwhelming evidence, all the credit goes to the Prophet Joseph Smith for his "impressive performance." (Compare Richard Bushman's description of the method in "Hugh Nibley and Joseph Smith," Journal of the Book of Mormon 19.1.)

Reading along, we glimpse something about how the Egyptians ordered their universe.

Hugh Nibley--like the pictured Maat in the facsimile--takes the reader deftly by the hand and swiftly yet lucidly zieht uns hinan to one upper window after another into the mind of the ancients. The Egyptians, we come to see, had a genius for compressing thought into a few succinct symbols, each of multiple significance. Forgo the arrogant clinging to logic and analysis in which no symbol can ever represent more than one thing at a time, choose l'esprit de finesse that is Egypt, and let kings be your teachers. And with unfailing grace and a fund of humor, Hugh Nibley guides us into a classroom that is not a forbidding crypt but a merry, flower-strewn court where everyone basks in wonder and delight. Happy, happy breed these Egyptians, and if we consider their sense of high purpose and heaven-encircling intelligence, we begin to glimpse why.

Hugh Nibley always leaves--kicks--the door open for new discovery. While no case could be more carefully considered or clearly presented than what appears in these 32 pages, there's still more to see. So let's briefly consider the ritual significance of Abraham on the throne of Pharaoh in light of David Klotz's recent book, The Adoration of the Ram (page 115 n. 317). Or, as Hugh Nibley puts it in a chapter section heading: Who is sitting on My Throne?

In the Xoite nome (or province) of Egypt, a place dedicated to King Amun as his original throne on earth, the local dead shared in the privileges and promises of the Temple-of-the-thrones-of-Re, or the "temple of Kingship," in order to receive in eternity "the complete lifetime of Re and his kingship" (Philae, 115, 5). These blessings of eternal kingship were granted by the King personally ("by the politeness of the king"--Facsimile 3): "He (the king) brings to you Xoite Nome with what comes forth from it: the Temple-of-the-thrones of-Re" (Edfu VI, 39, 5-6).

Note how essential it was for the Egyptians to designate certain places on earth the mirror images of the heavenly places. The result: "you are [now] the god, the lord of kingship."

Facsimile 3 gives us the blessings in triplicate (see Abraham in Egypt, 125). The roof of the palace (or canopy) is decked with stars--here is the celestial order of things--while the basement is inscribed, says Professor Baer, with an invocation to the "gods of the caverns," even those of the South, North, East, and West, that is, the four quarters of the earth. All of which leaves us with this Middle Earth, where we see Abraham, in the likeness of both Osiris below and Re above, sitting on Pharaoh's throne. The deed is an earnest of better things to come. And all adds up to seven, the number of new creation.

Abraham, we are told in a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, having lived the plan of happiness on earth, and acted out the corresponding rites and ordinances, "hath entered into his exaltation and sitteth upon his throne" (Doctrine and Covenants 132:29, http://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132.29?lang=eng).

Book of Abraham Facsimile 3: http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/fac-3?lang=eng

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book of Abraham Facsimile 2: A New Reading

Note to the Reader

Much of the material in the following essay about Book of Abraham Facsimile 2 has been emended and updated in newer posts. These include posts about reconstructing the hieroglyphic texts found on the Rim and on the Right-and-Left-Hand Panels, as well as posts about the Lower Panels (much modified) and Figures 1 (Kolob) and 3. Despite what I consider to be advances in knowledge and corrections of error, I still wish to keep the original essay online, in order to map progress in understanding Book of Abraham Facsimile 2. To make and publish mistakes in understanding Ancient Egyptian writings, then, later, to correct and to refine such prior judgments is what keeps Egyptian philology fun.

I would still encourage the reader to turn first to the updated posts.

Here are six of the several updates (others to be found on the same blogspot Web site):

http://valsederholm.blogspot.com/2013/03/reading-erased-right-panels-on.html

http://valsederholm.blogspot.com/2013/06/reading-rim-new-readings-for-facsimile.htm

lhttp://valsederholm.blogspot.com/2012/04/book-of-abraham-facsimile-2-august-god.html

http://valsederholm.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-preliminary-explanation-and.html

http://valsederholm.blogspot.com/2012/04/kolob-in-color.html

http://valsederholm.blogspot.com/2014/01/enish-go-on-dosh-in-book-of-abraham.html


Original Essay


My purpose is to find out if the Church Historian's copy of the Book of Abraham hypocephalus (Facsimile 2) has anything more to tell us.

Facsimile 2 reproduces a busy Egyptian vignette drawn within the compass of a circle on a sheet of stuccoed linen or papyrus no longer extant. Egyptologists call these round drawings, which encompass both representations and hieroglyphs, a hypocephalus, that is, something placed "under the head" of a mummy. These vignettes were not always drawn on linen, some appear on bronze plates or on other media. In July 1985 I conversed with Hugh Nibley in Provo's Manuvu Chapel about the announced recovery of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus in a collection of papers purportedly belonging to William E. McClellin, an early Latter-day Saint official. When I asked Brother Nibley whether he wished to see the purported hypocephalus, he said his only wish would be to find out the nature of the material of which it was made.

Facsimile 2, as published in the Book of Abraham, is the work of Reuben Hedlock, who knew the art of engraving on lead plates. The Prophet Joseph Smith commissioned Hedlock to engrave three Egyptian vignettes for publication, alongside the Book of Abraham, in the Nauvoo journal, Times and Seasons (History of the Church 5:518-534; February and March 1842). The hypocephalus was a fragile document; the Hedlock cut for Facsimile 2 shows two hieroglyphic labels and some iconography not to be found on a second copy (Nibley, "The Three Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham," date 1980).

That second copy of the hypocephalus, drawn in pen and unattributed, appears among the Kirtland Egyptian Papers in the archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Church History Library, MS 1294, folder 5). New and startlingly clear images of the Church Historian's copy were made in 2009 and are housed in the Church History Library. Belonging, as it does, to the archives of the Church Historian and Recorder, some call the pen copy the Church Historian's copy; others, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers version. The Church Historian's copy shows noticeable gaps in text and iconography (most of the hieroglyphs on the right hand panels and about a third of the text of the rim are missing). Reuben Hedlock, in order to make an artistically pleasing engraving for publication, filled in these missing portions with hieratic taken from other papyri belonging to the Prophet (see Hugh Nibley, An Approach to the Book of Abraham [Salt Lake City, 2009], 22ff., 63).

The two copies, with explanations, may be found, side-by-side, as Appendixes 2 (Hedlock) and 3 (pen-and-ink copy) of Michael Rhodes's and Hugh Nibley's One Eternal Round [Salt Lake City, 2010], 634-5; additional hypocephali are also reproduced in the same book (Wien 253 a/2; Leiden AMS 62, Brussels E 6319, etc.); yet others may be found on the Website of Mr. Tom Barker: The Book of Abraham: A Collection of Hypocephali, which also provides links to the documents on the web pages of museum collections. The article that best summarizes the various interpretations of the figures found on hypocephali, and also collates iconography and accompanying labels, is John Gee, "Towards an Interpretation of Hypocephali," Le lotus qui sorte de la terre: melanges offert a Edith Varga (Budapest, 2001), 325-34.

First of all--three cheers to Michael Rhodes and Hugh Nibley for One Eternal Round, a new book about Facsimile 2! It is Michael Rhodes who provides us with the translation of Facsimile 2 to be found in the book, as can by seen by comparing it against that previously published in "The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus. . . Seventeen Years Later," (FARMS, Provo UT, 1994). Hugh Nibley also gives a preliminary reading in a 1980 article, "The Three Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham" (FARMS, Provo, UT, 1980). Now any reader of Egyptian, or anything else, has to puzzle things out for himself, and, accordingly, my reading of the Abraham hypocephalus should and does differ in places from that of Rhodes.

Let's take a look.

A first examination of the Church Historian's copy of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus against the engraving made by Reuben Hedlock, and other extant hypocephali, yields its small treasure about both text and iconography. This is so even when the Church Historian's version doesn't show all the text that Hedlock had available to him: the intrusive process of tracing the papyrus and making the engraving rubbed out a bit of the text and iconography (see Rhodes and Nibley, One Eternal Round, 593). On the other hand, the pen copy brings both images and words into high relief.

My focus centers on the hieroglyphic text as mediated by both Hedlock and the Church Historian's copy; others have noted how the iconography on the Church Historian's copy help us puzzle out the deeper Hedlock muddles, or vice versa (see Rhodes and Nibley, One Eternal Round, passim).

1) First, just a bit of fun with a bit of iconography: Figure 4 of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus, which represents a fledgling falcon emerging from a solar boat whose hull is smattered with dots (or stars?). Hugh Nibley took care to count each of these and found precisely 15 ("The Three Facsimiles," 1980). One hypocephalus shows only 13 such dots, another, 16, a third, 7, reason enough for later dropping the connection between the ship and the number 15 in One Eternal Round.

Still, the number 15 was important to Brother Nibley, given the Prophet's explanation about a governing power that conveys light through 15 other planets or stars. So curiosity getting the better of me, I had to count and re-count the dots on the Church Historian's copy. What do we see there? What appear to be the last couple of dots, when moving to right on the Hedlock engraving, seem, in the Historian's copy, at first blush, to be the uncertain reflection of hatch marks on the bow. Let's tally things up: on the Church Historian's copy there are two hatch marks on the stern of the ship and three, on the bow. And the fifteen points? There they are, dot by dot.

While we have no way of knowing what, if anything, these dots may convey, I can't resist further comments about the number 15. Evidence or not, the dots on the ship led Nibley's mind to the 15 stars found on the underbelly of the Heavenly Cow (as depicted in the book of that name). Solar ships float just below these heavenly stars, and Hugh Nibley is not reticent in pointing out that the Egyptian understanding of these ships, along with other ships found in the Netherworld books, something recall the story of the flood. The Book of the Heavenly Cow is, after all, the Egyptian story of universal destruction (see Abraham in Egypt; One Eternal Round). And with that last idea in mind, I can't but recall the verse in Genesis (7:20) about the flood waters rising an additional 15 cubits until the (cosmic) mountains, or pillars of the earth, were covered (earth's mountains, or "all the high hills," all having been completely covered in the previous verse). Though absent in Manuscript 1, Old Testament Manuscript 2 of the Joseph Smith Translation even gives us "fifteen cubits and upward," a new translation which perfectly renders the rare, overly exaggerated complex preposition in Hebrew: "15 cubits from (thence)-and-to upwards" (the "and," written above the line of text, was purposely added as an insert, see especially Joseph Smith's New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts, (eds.) Scott Faulring, Kent Jackson, Robert J. Matthews). Fifteen cubits is not enough: In Joshua the exaggerated expression also pushes Jordan's waters back to their very source! The number is symbolic; for the sky's the limit. Such pillars, by the way, also appear as the legs of the Heavenly Cow: pillars, ship, and 15 stars, everything falls into place. The Ship of Fifteen Cubits, suspended over the waters, traverses the empyreal regions of space.

It's a space betwixt the worlds--and is this not the meaning of the name jmty or jmyt that sometimes labels the fledgling (our figure 4): "the one who is in-between"? The transcendent Amun appears in the Great Amun Hymn (col. 41) from Hibis Temple as lord of heaven, earth, netherworld, waters, and "the air which is between them" (T3w jmytw=sn), and the hypocephalus depicts it all--with figure 4 as "the expanse" (Leiden AMS 62 has j-m-t-y + determinative sign of child; for the Great Amun Hymn (col. 41), see David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple [New Haven, 2006], 34-5). On hypocephalus Cairo SR 10687 the ship-with-fledgling fills the entire lower panel of the hypocephalus, just below the panel featuring the Wedjat-Lady and Hathor Cow. Hugh Nibley considered the wings of the fledgling to correspond to those of the goddess Nut, and a recently published hypocephalus (Wien Aeg. 8324) shows just that. Everything typically found in the upper register of hypocephali is now replaced by the sole figure of a goddess, who--with outstretched wings--represents the expanse of heaven (Willy Clarysse, "A Hypocephalus from Ptolemaic Memphis in Vienna," Egyptian Religion: The Last Thousand Years [Leuven, 1998], 1: 322). The figure is not necessarily Nut, the sky goddess; what we see is simply the expanse of heaven in the likeness of a winged goddess. In his Explanation of Facsimile 2 the Prophet Joseph says figure 4: "Answers to the Hebrew word Raukeeyang, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens." In like manner, Figure 4 also answers to the Egyptian word jmty. The fledgling falcon as divine child, jmty, standing between two realities, also represents a new birth "twixt wake and sleep." (I think the Egyptians would have loved Herbert's famous pattern poem, "Easter Wings".)

Hugh Nibley, commenting on the opening words found on the hypocephalus rim, words which invoke a certain Djebabty (that is, the one who belongs to the Djeba), has something marvelous to say: "D[j]ebabty is the one 'most high' on the Djeba, floating in space, negotiating the gap between the worlds" (One Eternal Round, 231). When you consider that the Djeba, to which the Djebabty belongs, either consists of inflated skin floats used for fishing and hunting on the river or makes up some sort of box, cube, or coffin, you start to wonder (One Eternal Round, 335ff.). After all, as students have noted, the Egyptian word djeba matches Hebrew tebah, the ark of the covenant. How about Noah's ark? The word tebah or djeba describes that ark as well (see Hugh Nibley, Transcripts of Lectures on the Book of Mormon).

2) We now come to the inscribed panels found to the left of figure 1 (Kolob). Here several differences obtain between the Hedlock engraving and the Church Historian's Office copy. On the top line (fig. 12) the hieroglyph read as sDr (to be asleep, sleeper) is not only better represented on the Church Historian's copy, there's a significant difference: the Hedlock cut shows a vertical line just after the determinative sign of the mummy resting on the lion couch. Comparison shows at once that the Church Historian's copy better reproduces the details of the hieroglyph, and therefore what appears in Hedlock to be a vertical line, and thus a marker of plurality (sDm.w, sleepers), represents nothing more nor less than the back legs of the lion couch. In other words, there is no vertical line that signifies the plural morpheme of anything.

The sentence-level grammar is clear enough: "O god who sleeps (sDr) in the First Time," as Hugh Nibley also read the sentence: "O god, sleeping in the time of the beginning" ("The Three Facsimiles," 1980). Hypocephalus Wien AS 253 a/2 has: "O god who lives ('nx(.w)) in the First Time," and in both cases what we have is the stative form of the verb, a form which expresses the state or condition of the subject of the sentence. Although these verbs could formally also be taken for participles, the placement in the sentence certainly makes the sense stative, even as it also requires the stative form of the verb. Grammatically speaking, we consider the 3rd person singular form of the stative to include a morpheme -w: thus sDr.w and 'nx.w. Yet we would rarely, if ever, expect that same -w to appear in the writing of the 3rd person singular. Thus, if we follow Hedlock and read the vertical line as the three short vertical strokes of -w, or of plurality, we would find a morpheme that, while the correct morpheme for the stative, ought never to swim into our ken. Besides, should the elusive quark-morpheme appear, we would expect the hieroglyph of the chick, rather than the vertical stroke(s).

What's at question, though, with the vertical line found on the Hedlock engraving, is the reading of the word sDr as the nominal plural: sDr.w, the sleeping ones, or the dead (-w is the plural morpheme, especially with the vertical strokes). Michael Rhodes reads: "O god of the sleeping ones from the First Time" (i.e., of those who have slept since the beginning of time). The translation is awkward, although the idea matches that found in Egyptian texts elsewhere. So is Rhodes right or not? He certainly is right--but this is where Egyptian gets tricky and interesting--for Amun-Re elsewhere appears as nTr sDr.w, god of the sleepers, of the dead, meaning those deceased persons who will rise at his glorious appearance (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 38-9).

The clear representation of the lion couch on the Church Historian's copy puts the matter itself to rest: there are no vertical marks of plurality. And yet the idea remains true that the god who sleeps also contains in himself the totality of all who sleep in that First and Potential Moment, the very Moment of the world's furling forth. And whether that state of the sleepers refers to time's beginning or life's end, the sleep of death, it's all one. Amun is the one who lives in the First Moment, and all shall live through him. Michael Rhodes, despite orthography and grammar, intuitively gets it right: the line has to do with the promise of the resurrection.

Job's "root of the matter" is to be found in Professor Erik Hornung's, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many (Ithaca, 1982). Pages 161 and 162 discuss the significance of both the plural sleepers and of the "stative" sleeping god (Osiris, Re-Osiris), although Hornung's discussion never once considers the hypocephalus. The Hugh Nibley Ancient Studies Room at Brigham Young University keeps a collection of books belonging to Professor Nibley, and on the margin of page 162 of Hornung's book, Nibley writes "Fac II, fig 12."

Says Hornung (161-2): "Regeneration is possible only outside the ordered world of creation. In order to be rejuvenated, that is, to reverse the course of time, one must step for a little outside time and see oneself at the beginning of the temporal world, at creation or even in the world before creation, which knows no time [the zp tpj or First Time: "celestial time"]. Rebirth in the morning becomes therefore a renewal of creation, and comes about with the help of the primeval gods, who sent the sun forth from their midst [cf. 1 Nephi 1] on the 'first occasion' at the beginning of creation; like the creation of the world, sunrise can thus be called the 'first occasion' [as depicted on Fac. 2, fig. 1, Kolob: "the first creation"]. In the Book of Caverns [Abraham Facsimile 3 invokes the gods of the caverns] the sun god announces to the underworld dwellers, 'I enter into the world from which I came forth, I rest [sDr] on (the place of my) first birth.' He therefore returns to the world before creation, from which he went forth on the 'first occasion' and ever again goes forth." The whole thing sounds like a commentary on the Gospel of John.

There's more: "Those who sleep [the sDr.w] are rejuvenated in Nun [primordial time and space], and in a Ramessid hymn the deceased cry out to the sun god that they too are rejuvenated through entry into Nun, 'slough off' their previous existence, and 'put on' another, as a snake does its skin," 161. It's just like St. Paul: Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Ephesians 5:14; cf. Doctrine and Covenants 138:24).

David Klotz's study of the hymns at Hibis Temple, Adoration of the Ram: Five Hymns to Amun-Re from Hibis Temple (New Haven, 2006), published after Brother Nibley's death, yields insight into the Amun-Re doctrine. The dead become what Amun-Re/Osiris, as described in the Invocation Hymn, has become: the "living one who lives in [through] Nun" ('nx.y 'nx m Nwn), Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 35, for he is the nTr sDr.w, "god of the sleepers" (the plural marks are, in this case, very clear), 38, 291 pl. 3. And how do the Egyptians picture these sleepers? As snakes! No wonder figure 1 of the hypocephali appears in glory with several snakes, both in horizontal (sleeping) state, and as vertically drawn snakes, shown at the moment of stirring back into life (see discussion in Rhodes and Nibley, One Eternal Round and compare Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 95ff). (The Hedlock plate shows two snakes, one on either side, and both vertical; the Kirtland Egyptian Papers version does not show the snake on the right side. Here is evidence that the Hedlock copy better reflects the original for figure 1.) On at least two hypocephali, the netherworldly dreamer (or the dreamer in inchoate Nun, the waters before Creation) rests on the back of the cow, as she swims him to safety--across that wide river.

"In the Great Amun Hymn (col 16)" at Hibis Temple, "the 'recumbent serpents' (sDr.w) stand up for Amun-Re," Adoration of the Ram, 39 n 212, 95ff. So too: "A Ptolemaic inscription [hymn] describing the Decade rites at Karnak" might as well apply to our scene in figure 1: "Just as those lying down [sDr.w] (the Ogdoad [the baboons]) stand up ['aH'a] for him (Amun),' so do those standing up lie down for him" (D. Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 98).

Though I would translate sDr as describing the state of the sleeping god alone, Rhodes's translation: "O God of the Sleeping Ones from the time of the creation," also turns out to be right on the dot--and ultimately the better translation--since it more fully conveys the idea of the universal rebirth through the union of solar energy and the inert corpse, or of the ba and the corpse, that is, of Re and Osiris. [Please see Notes: Updates for a recent correction in reading the sign in number 12.]

3) The next thing to be found on the Church Historian's copy is that which is not found there: on the third line (fig 10), a blank space follows the words "of the Duat, of the Waters." But on the Hedlock engraving we find three horizontal lines of hieroglyphs, words which Rhodes reads as "his" and "great," and which he associates with the Waters: "his great Waters." The reading (at least Waters), while it doesn't match standard formula, may well be correct, and, according to Rhodes and Nibley (p. 593), reflects a portion of the text as yet undamaged and so available to Hedlock, but not available later on to the other copyist.  Here the first horizontal looks unmistakeably like the viper hieroglyph (3rd person masc. possessive suffix pronoun: his), and the second and third horizontal lines match the hieroglyphic writing for '3j, great, or greatest. On the other hand, these signs might well represent hieroglyphic or hieratic filler added by Hedlock to obviate unseemly blank space.

But even if mw=f '3 (or mw) belongs here, there's still enough room after the phrase for something else. The expression of universal overlordship for Amun-Re ought to include five things: heaven, earth, netherworld, waters, and mountains--and there's room for mountains here (see Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 129, citing Kurt Sethe, Amun und die act Urgoetter von Hermopolis [Berlin, 1929], paragraph 22: "Lord of heaven, earth, the underworld, the waters, and the mountains (Kosmokrator)." Indeed BYU Egyptologist John Gee, working independently, has already noted how parallel constructions in other texts point to a restoration of mountains for the lacuna on the third panel. We also recall Nibley's comments in An Approach to the Book of Abraham (ps. 329ff.) about how the four sons of Horus on Facsimile 1 when combined with the god of Pharaoh make five, which taken together makes up the four quarters of the earth and the center place that is both zenith and nadir.

4) Lower down with figure 9, we find the line about the Ba of Sheshonq obtaining eternal life, and here's another uncertainty. Just before the ankh-sign, we find a hieroglyphic sign capped by a small nearly rectangular loop (best represented on the Church Historian's copy). The appearance is odd (as is the case with all these signs sketched by modern hands), but it matches the hieroglyph for s and accordingly serves to begin the causative form of the verb: s + 'nx (cause to obtain eternal life). Following the phrasing found on some other hypocephali, though ignoring the loop, Rhodes reasonably gives us d3 (which I take to be a misprint for di), that is, the helping verb: di + 'nx. (Nibley, "The Three Facsimiles," 1980, gives the imperative form of dj = jmj, give, grant.) Yet the expression s + 'nx does appear on the hypocephalus Brussels E 6319 (One Eternal Round, Appendix 6, 638). In fact, the Brussels scribe couldn't make up his mind and so gives us the bizarre combination of a helping verb of causation plus the thematic causative form: dj=f s'nx b3 D.t (bring about the state of life, cause to live, have eternal life). Because s'nx is the more linguistically compact, or synthetic reading (that is, likely the older reading), I'd suggest for the Joseph Smith hypocephalus, Line 8, the following: s'nx ba Osiris Sheshonq (cause the Ba of the late Sheshonq to live).

5) As for the panels to the right of Kolob, the Hedlock plate includes much hieratic filler (taken from the Book of Breathings) for the blank spaces, and such mixing of hieratic with hieroglyphic precludes a ready read. Here the Church Historian's copy is essential. (The theme of breathing from the Book of Breathings, as others have shown, does thematically match these lines of text in several hypocephali, which show the sail or wind or breath hieroglyph.) Although few hieroglyphs are shown by the copyist, the rest having been rubbed off or damaged through tearing, these few are enough to mirror what's written on other hypocephali. The key to reconstructing the original text found on these panels lies in the extant portion of the noun phrase md.t=f (his word), followed by the determinative sign of a seated god, as found in figure 12 (panel 4). Because that noun phrase, in the company of a specific prayer for divine aid, is also found in the side panels at least three other hypocephali (Hesikheb = BM 37908 [Panel 2]; Wien AS 253 a/2; Leiden AMS 62), we can confidently move forward. (BM 37908 = BS.8445f may be viewed at the British Museum web page at britishmuseum.org.)

To proceed in logical order, let's start at the top and work our way back down to md.t. Panel 1 (fig. 12) shows traces of what I take as two flowering reeds and a short horizontal line ending on the left with a tiny vertical stroke (what I suppose to be the leftmost reed appears only as two vertical strokes that nearly touch, the right stroke being a bit longer than the left). Working from what I see on the top panel of yet another hypocephalus, Ashmolean Museum 1982.1095 (Tashenkhons): j nTr pfy '3, I transcribe the reeds and the horizontal stroke on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus as y and ayin, and thus as writing a partly erased pfy '3. The demonstrative pronoun pf(y), with its superfluous y tagged on, as common in late texts, reads "that"; '3 means "great" or "greatest": "O that great(est) god." But that's no translation at all, and I was taught to leave such descriptive flourishes out when translating: we do not need to state the obvious about each god being the greatest of all. . . What we are left with, then, is simply the invocation of the god, meaning "that particular god" shown in figure 1 of the hypocephalus.

Moving to Panel 2 (fig. 13), both Hedlock and the Church Historian's copy show many traces, including traces of the sail, or hieroglyph for air, as also found on our three presumably parallel hypocephali: 'nx m T3w (the god who lives on air = by breathing air). It is not easy to read the traces on the second half of Panel 2 on either the Hedlock or the Church Historian's copy, the first half being blank. Still, the first few remaining marks, as the Hedlock cut particularly makes clear, outline the hieroglyph of the owl, that is, the preposition m (in, from, out of). We next find, moving from right to left, two little strokes and a dot near the bottom of the line (the tail feathers of our owl), then a horizontal line at top from which fall two parallel diagonals. These match the right-hand portion of the sail hieroglyph on Wien AS 253 a/2. But what about the bold curved line just to the left? To a keen eye, there is no difficulty in assigning it to the left hand portion of the very same sail. While these traces, at first blush, appear to be too extensive for a single hieroglyph, that indeed is what we have here. Other signs immediately follow on the left, toward the edge of the panel. The Hedlock is the clearest. At top we see the hieroglyph of walking legs, which signifies jw (to come).

Panel 3 (fig. 14) gives us a long blank that ends in "Re," followed by j + w, which last could either spell jw (of various interpretation) or the preposition r. (A comparison of other representations of the w-sign on the hypocephalus helps to confirm my reading.) In order to reconstruct the panel, it makes sense to consider matters of mise-en-page: "Re" also appears on the same panel on both Wien AS 253 a/2 and BM 37908, and in both cases the name is followed by the preposition r.

We return now to the partially preserved noun phrase that provides the key for reading the whole. Panel 4 (fig. 15) yields a determinative sign of a man with hand over mouth, followed by three marks of plurality and, underneath the last, the horned viper (the masculine possessive suffix -f = his). There's one sign more: the determinative sign of the seated god.

These last remnants on Panel 4 find a match in the beautifully written Leiden hypocephalus (Leiden AMS 62), where the same word is found written in full: staff + hand + bread loaf (the letter -t), followed by that man with his hand to his mouth, and all that follows in our Panel 4. And an even closer match in spelling to our hypocephalus appears on BM 37908. (Wien AS 253 a/2 has an abbreviated spelling.) And what is the word? Again, it's md.t, the word for word (or words) (earlier Egyptian has mdw). And, following the rest of the line in Leiden et alia, we know whose word it is: Osiris' word.

Helpfully, Nibley and Rhodes (One Eternal Round, 230ff) provide full discussion of Leiden AMS 62, although without reference to the fragmentary final line in the Abraham hypocephalus. The remaining hieroglyphs in Panel Eight, however, had already been noted by all students. Dee Jay Nelson gives the phrase as mdw=f, "his words," in his Joseph Smith's Eye of Ra: a preliminary survey and first translation of facsimile no. 2 in the Book of Abraham (1968), 28, although his reading of the final determinative sign as a sitting man is wrong. (Nelson also reproduces in a hand-drawn copy of these panels three reed signs and a solar sign in the other traces, but transcribes no further.) In Rhodes, "Seventeen Years Later," we find the phrase but cautiously transcribed as =f, "his." Professor John Gee has also read these few signs as mdw=f. "Words" must not be thought of, however, as an ordinary plural; plurality is built into the lexically frozen mdw (or mdw(.w)) or, later, md.t, or md(.w)t), whether specifically written with the determinative of plurality or not. It is the very notion of speech which requires the plurality: mdw=f, or md.t=f signifies "his speech," which is necessarily a matter of many words (see the Woerterbuch der Aegyptischen Sprache, Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar, and Antonio Loprieno's Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction [Cambridge, 1995]). Other students, then, have at least begun to guess correctly about what was originally written on the right panels of Facsimile 2. . .

The entire sequence, beginning at the top left hand panel in the Leiden hypocephalus, reads: "O noble god (or, O Shepsi--a solar god), who lives on air. Come through (or on, or over, or out of) the water. Re shall enter (i.e., go down) to hear his word (or his words, speech, or call). Come to the Osiris Tayat, etc." Is this not the very text that was once found, prior to erasures, on the Abraham hypocephalus? Again, what we see on Facsimile 2, fig. 13 (= Panel 3), is the name of Re, followed by the flowering reed (j) and then what recalls a w. That's the end of the panel, but the succeeding panel (fig. 14) is blank until we come to the broken md.t=f, followed by the determinative sign of the seated god, which sign is not found on Leiden. At very least we can posit that the blank space of Panel 4 includes a sentence about coming to hear Osiris: r sDm md.t=f ("to hear his word"); at most, we would hope to find the name of the invoked god (Re) and a verb of motion: 'q (enter), jw (walk toward), or the like.

Thanks to Leiden, the meaning of the determinative sign of the seated god is clear. It represents Osiris and his call. And who is his help? It is the sun, who descends at night to rescue Osiris from the tomb. In other texts a drowning, floating Osiris calls out, and Thoth comes. The Metternich Stela (Spell 5) states: "Cause Thoth to come to me at my voice (xrw=j)," a different word than our md.t (see Val H. Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808 and Its Cultural and Religious Setting [Leiden, 2006], 100). The Leiden text is very specific: Re answers the call by coming through the waters and literally entering into ('q) the tomb.

Let's recap. Does the correct reading of a new word in the Joseph Smith hypocephalus make any difference? And could more words for our hypocephalus be identified by comparing our document against other hypocephali? For one, the single word md.t clinches the case for the Joseph Smith hypocephalus belonging, like Leiden, to the class of hypocephali that represent prayers. And perhaps the best translation for md.t is, after all, prayer. (For the two classes of hypocephali, prayers and answers, see One Eternal Round, 230ff.)

The inscription on the right side of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus thus matches, with some differences of spelling, the left side of Leiden and the right sides of both Wien AS 253 a/2 (though partly erased) and BM 37908. (There is one sign on Wien difficult to read: just before Re we see something like a crest over a bird's head: could these traces spell 'q?)

The placement of the traces on Facsimile 2 lines up neatly with hieroglyphs found on BM 37908, and attention to such matters of mise-en-page provides the key. The text of BM 37908 reads j nTr pf '3/'nx m T3w jw/m mw 'q r'/"nTr"-sign + r sDm md.t=f: "O god (or greatest god), who lives off air, and travels in water (or comes on the water): May Re descend in order to hear Osiris' prayer!"

How is the petition to be understood? The first part, the invocation proper, at once refers to both Re and Osiris, or, to be specific, the petition invokes the figure found at the center of the hypocephalus, the transcendent Amun-Re, Amun-Re/Osiris, or even Shu-Amun (also given as Amun-Shu). Amun (the hidden one), stands "preeminent among deities, and combines in a single figure all the characteristics of the creator and sustainer of the world," including both Re, the god who empowers the solar globe, and Shu, god of the air, or rather, "of the space between earth and sky and of the light that fills that space," which again recalls figure 4 of Facsimile 2 (E. Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, 274-5, 283).

Complicated? The whole matter works itself out as mystery, paradox, and an opposition in all things. Re and Osiris make up the complete cycle of the Sun god through sky and netherworld--air and water--while Amun-Re describes his hidden yet transcendent nature. The demonstrative pronoun pfy (that, not this) likely describes a distancing of sorts. David Klotz's comments on a Hibis Temple hymn also shed light on our prayer: "Amun enables birth [resuscitation, rebirth] by 'providing the breath of life,' which is precisely the role of the 'Ba of Shu.' In this sense, it is through Amun's manifestation of pneuma (= Ba of Shu) that the Royal Ka [the power to rule] is passed from generation to generation," or from Horus to Horus (D. Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 36).

We now consider the second portion of the petition, which is the pronouncement of the blessing; for the supreme though paradoxical god once invoked, blessing now follows. The blessing reads: "May Re enter to hear his prayer." Here is something wonderful: just as the invocation mingles the nature of Re and Osiris, sky and watery netherworld, at once within water and rising from water, at once awaiting saving air and carrying that air into the darkness, so the subsequent blessing separates the two gods just long enough to describe the moment of rescue prior to resurrection. It is the prayer of Abraham on his lion couch, of Osiris on his.

Has the text of the right hand panel of Facsimile 2 been recovered? Yes! Here is the result (in standardized computer transcription): j nTr pfy 'A, 'nx m TAw, jw m mw: 'q r' jw [= r] sDm md.t=f (I invoke that special, particular god, who lives by breath, who negotiates the waters: So may Re descend to hear Osiris' words). Hugh Nibley, who anticipates so many things, also anticipated this new reading; in One Eternal Round we find two pages of commentary (230-1) on this very invocation as written on the Leiden hypocephalus! (Note the positive comments on reconstructing all missing portions of the Joseph Smith version on the basis of other hypocephali, ps. 325-6.)

We now return to the left-hand panel (and my fresh reading of it), where the prayer blossoms into resurrection: j nTr sDr m zp tpj, nb p.t, tA, dA.t, mw=f 'A(?), [Dw.w]: s'nx bA wsjr SS[n]q (O god who sleeps in the First Time, lord of heaven, earth, duat, his great(?) waters, [and mountains]: s'nx the b3 of Osiris Sheshonq).

To the attentive reader, the prayers on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus bear striking resemblance to the poetic, and very Egyptian, language describing the four theophanies of the Book of Abraham. Hugh Nibley's ear was ever attentive to the echoes and cadences that obtain between Abraham and the theme of prayer and divine response, as found on 48 hypocephali and in the Book of the Dead (One Eternal Round, 224ff., 233). Abraham rejoices: "Thy servant has sought thee earnestly; now I have found thee; Thou didst send thine angel to deliver me. . . and I will do well to hearken unto thy voice [r sDm md.t=k]" (2:12-3). The found God of Abraham (a leading theme in New Kingdom piety texts) reveals himself as the Lord of heaven, earth, sea, fire, wind, and the mountains: "I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains--Depart hence" (2:7). And in answer to Abraham's pleas from the altar or lion couch (pictured on Fac. 2, fig. 15), he responds: "Behold, I lifted up my voice [xrw; mdw] unto the Lord my God, and the Lord hearkened and heard [sDm]. . . and the angel of his presence stood by me, and immediately unloosed my bands [mummy wrappings = Abraham as Osiris]. . . "Abraham, Abraham, behold, my name is Jehovah, and I have heard [sDm] thee, and have come down [mj; 'q] to deliver thee" [nHm, deliver ~ nHm.t, nHb, the lotus, as symbol of Abraham's deliverance] (1:16). The descent only mirrors that of primordial times (m zp tpy): "I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences" [Eg. Akh = 3x = spirits of light] (3:21).

It is not a difficult matter to picture the Book of Abraham written in hieroglyphs on an Egyptian papyrus; the hypocephalus alone has things covered.

The final expression in the prayers signals the moment of revival, but just what does it mean to s'nx a b3 and so transform it into a b3 'nxy? Again, what can that expression mean for a real person named Sheshonq, "who was once handsome and tall as you?" What could it mean for anyone? Who in "this ignorant present" can tell? The usual handbooks speak of a ba-spirit--there's no such thing! The ba is "kein Teil des menschlichen Wesens" (no mere part of the human personality), but a "Ganzheitsbegriff" (a representation of fullness: H. Kees, Der Goetterglaube im Alten Aegypten [Berlin, 1956], 148). The ba, say the scholars, must often be pictured as a material, physical being that lives on a higher plane of existence: "The ba depends on the body, since it by no means exists as a purely spiritual principle. . . Nothing in Egyptian thought compares with the Ba: it constitutes a fullness of being" (Erik Hornung, Idea Into Image: Essays on Ancient Egyptian Thought [Princeton, 1992], 181, 183). To describe its life, or its blossoming into life, is to attempt eternity. The fullness of life inherent in the ba defies description; it defies analysis. How do the Egyptians describe that fullness? We move to the inner, semiotic realm of the -emic, rather than -etic, that is, a description given in the Egyptians' own words. Yet just as the ba defies our outsider, -etic explanation, it exhausts the -emic. For the Egyptians all signifiers finally point upward, like temple towers, to eternal fullness.

So there's hope. Yet we finish up in the world below (for now).

6) The following discussion has now been replaced by a more recent post in 2013. 
Here on the nethermost panels, the hand of our pen-and-ink copyist palsies and slips. The first line boldly begins with the hieroglyph for negation (nn = do not) instead of the flowering papyrus that writes the first part of the word for tomb on the Hedlock cut, although the Historian does leave a trace of the tomb here: the letter -t and the determinative sign for place. Yet, here, a hand has deftly struck through the offending negative sign and netted a semi-circle about it. Farther along, and below the margin of the line, the papyrus flowers have been added, and I guess it's left for us to put them back in their proper place--flowers on a tomb indeed!

Michael Rhodes's translation also seems a bit jumbled (and Nibley points out that the translation matches Rhodes's perception of the dark, riddling text as itself being purposefully jumbled). It's the old curse of the mummy, and even the printer of One Eternal Round slips up here: n nth.tw is a misprint of Rhodes's nn th.tw. Rhodes, faced with an uncertain text, which it surely is, emends it to read: nn th.tw H3.t tn.

It's not all the copyist's fault, the original scribe made some spelling mistakes himself. As a result, the whole muddle seems hopelessly mixed. Still, we should look for the simplest solution possible. Spelling mistake? Yes. In the first line, following the word for tomb (H3.t), a wee mistake appears. There are five hieroglyphs, and the first four are just fine. We begin with t + h = the verb thj, followed by the determinative of leg pierced by a knife. Here's the action (blocked magically by the knife) of the bad guy, the tomb robber. Next in order comes the t-sign that expresses either the passive form of a verb, a relative form, the agent of the action of desecration, or the victim of that action--take your pick; then the mistake: the determinative of house or place, which we must replace with the hieroglyph of a twisted cord that stands for the phoneme -w and which makes up the rest of the word or morpheme, -tw. The correction made, we can now better understand the text, since the following seven signs also include thj + tw. I now transcribe: H3.t thj.t, nn thj tw.

Can the line be translated? Yes, and there is surely nothing wrong with Rhodes's reconstruction of the line, which supplies the first thj with the same negative sentence-adverb that proceeds the second thj. Still, if emendation becomes necessary, I would prefer to read the line as follows (with H3.t as the head noun of the "sentence"): H3.t [nn] thj.tw, nn thj.tw. Rhodes continues by taking the tw as the passive sDm.tw=f form of the verb (shall not be desecrated). A clearer transcription should also include the subject of the verb (the -f in the sDm.tw=f), something which, the Egyptians, without blinking, often omit, and which the reader today might wish to supply. Since the subject of the line is the tomb, a singular feminine noun, we would expect thj.tw=s.

I resist emending old texts, but can the sequence H3.t thj.t nn thj.tw be understood, as it stands, without emendation? Yes. The topic of the sentence (the theme) is the Noun Phrase h3.t, which stands in juxtaposition to the verbal form that follows it, and with which it agrees in gender (fem. -t). Thj.t is, therefore, a perfective relative form, a verbal form unique to Egyptian that often also carries "prospective reference" (Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar paragraph 387): "a tomb which he/someone may potentially desecrate." That the subject and resumptive pronouns (which last reflects the antecedent) should be omitted in writing comes as no surprise; the reader may supply these as follows: H3.t thj.t(=f) (s.t): "a tomb/this tomb which he may potentially desecrate (it)." Now for the rheme of the sentence, which comments on the theme of tomb + relative clause. The prospective perfective relative clause is followed by an emphatically placed passive clause (also of prospective modality): "This tomb that he (the tomb robber) may potentially desecrate, (even) it shall never be desecrated." As odd as it seems, the juxtaposition of a prospective relative clause with a prospective passive clause works--despite the strange construction the scribe gets his point over clearly.

Is all the linguistic algebra necessary? A better solution would simply be to consider the sequence H3.t thj.t from outside the bounds of sentence-level grammar, that is, as an ordered and clear, even while non-grammatical, sequence of words: "the tomb"; "the action of desecration" (a verbal noun or infinitive form). Then follows a good sentence: "It shall not (ever) be desecrated." Strange, perhaps even garbled, but admitting of no emendation.

We continue to the next line and, by way of emendation, add to Rhodes's transcription the oft-omitted preposition r, "for": nn thy.tw b3 pn Hn' nb=f m d3.t [r] D.t. My reading matches that of Michael Rhodes: "This particular Ba and its master shall never be disturbed (or trespassed upon) in the Netherworld, even forever." What does that mean? The tomb holds a glorified body, or s3H (we commonly translate s3H as "mummy"). This glorified body (both of the deceased and of the god Osiris) controls or possesses its own glorified, physical spirit (the ba). In order for eternal life to become possible, even in the grave or netherworld, the tomb must remain inviolate and that physical body intact, for the body is the key to eternal life.

And so we come to the bottom of the hypocephalus--the very Datian depths. And, here, let's get off. . .

And jump to the rim--(7) the Saturnine ring of Facsimile 2. While most of the original writing on the rim is visible on both Hedlock and the Church Historian's copy, about a third has vanished. Can that third be restored? We'll need a parallel text, and at least one readable trace still to be found on the erased portion of our rim. And a trace we do have. At the upper end of the blank, we find on both Hedlock and the Church Historian's copy the traces of a triple-tiered hieroglyph: from top to bottom, a line, a dot, a line (the Church Historian shows two jots and then a line). Examination of a parallel text, found on the rim of the Leiden hypocephalus, gives the reading away: the top line represents n; the dot, t, the bottom line, s (on Leiden), or n, or f. On the Leiden rim, the word nts is the 3nd person feminine singular independent personal pronoun, "she," and refers to the feminine owner of the Leiden hypocephalus. Because the owner of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus is Sheshonq, we would expect the 3rd person masculine: ntf. The question remains whether the bottom line is consistent with an f, given the fact that it appears to end at left in a little bump or rectangle. But such a bump or curvature at the tail of the viper is to be found in the other instances of the sign on our hypocephalus.

Now while one word might appear to be a slim basis for the reconstruction of a third of the rim, given the close parallel otherwise found between the two rims (Leiden AMS 62 and Joseph Smith hypocephalus), one word suffices.

Any other traces? Yes, but only a trace. The break in the text on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus begins just after the hieroglyphs that spell the word Heliopolis and what remains of the following word: the trace of horizontal lines. Hedlock shows something like a loop at the end of the horizontal line; the Church Historian's copy shows two small horizontal strokes, which together make up something like a loop (the feet of an owl?). The trace, which is found at the bottom of the line, is consistent with the lower portion of the hieroglyph on the Leiden rim that spells the word mj (Come!), which is the word on Leiden immediately following Heliopolis.

Nibley and Rhodes translate the rim of Leiden as follows (p. 231): "O Debabty in the House of the Benben most high and most glorious, procreating bull mighty and great in the house of the Great Old One in Heliopolis! Come to the Osiris, the priestess of Re [her name and the names of her justified parents follow], Justified! Grant that she become as one of your followers. She is that god who is in the temple (house) of the Great Old One in Heliopolis." The text is close to that found on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus (following Rhodes's transcription on ps. 334-5): "I am the Db3.ty [the one of the Db3.t-box or shrine] in the House of the Benben in Heliopolis, most high and most glorious, the matchless procreating bull, even this particular (greatest) god in the House of the Benben in Heliopolis [extensive break] that (greatest) god in Heliopolis." (As can be seen from the foregoing reading, I prefer the translation pattern given for Leiden on page 231 of One Eternal Round, rather than that given for Facsimile 2 on p. 335.)

Can we fill in the blank space on the rim of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus? If we follow Leiden and consider the traces to represent the independent pronoun ntf, we might expect, given the space left to us: "Come to the Osiris Sheshonq, Justified! Grant that he become as one of your followers. He is as that (greatest) god in Heliopolis" (or, preferably, as Michael Tilgner reads: "Grant that he become as one of your followers, for he is as that greatest god in Heliopolis") (mj rk n wsjr SS[n]q m3'-xrw dj=k xpr=f mj w' m sSm.w=k ntf nTr pf '3 m iwnw). That is the reading I propose for the erased portion of the rim of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus.

The very same expression dj=k xpr=s mj w' m sSm=k (Grant that she become as one of your followers) occurs on the fourth panel on the left-hand side of another hypocephalus, Ashmolean 1982-1095, where it follows the petition formula on Panels 2 and 3: "Come to the Osiris so-and-so." The rim of Ashmolean 1982-1095 has another petition formula of the type "Come and Rescue Osiris so-and-so," but here the sought-for blessing is much expanded: dj=k n=s 3x.w m pt xr r', wsr m t3 xr gb, m3'-xrw xr n3 nb.w dw3.t. Nts nTr pfy m Hw.t wr m jwnw (Cause thou that she will be an Akh (or glorious) in heaven along with Re, mighty on earth with Geb, and justified along with the lords of the netherworld. She is that god who is in the Shrine of the Great One (Old One) in Heliopolis).

The blessing formula on Ashmolean 1982.1095 (Tashenkhons) is too long for the blank space on the rim of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus; the Leiden formula makes for a perfect fit. Interestingly enough, that same compact formula found on Leiden also occurs on the left-hand panels of the Ashmolean hypocephalus, evidence that it had already become a fixed blessing following the petition "Come and Rescue." What we find on the rim of the Ashmolean hypocephalus therefore clearly represents a later expansion on the theme found on its panels and on the rim of the Leiden hypocephalus. "Grant that she may become as one of your followers in the solar circuit" perforce also comprehends the three spheres of heaven, earth, and underworld. The conception of the Egyptian cosmos as a three-tiered world is central to the doctrine of the Transcendent Amun, yet we are to think of the three worlds not so much as tiers but as stations along the solar circuit. The followers of Re visit each of these stations, in a continual round, and in turn participate in the glories and ceremonies therewith associated (an idea also set forth in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 88). The message of the hypocephalus embraces cosmic fullness.

How is the entire text on the rim of the Joseph Smith hypocephalus to be understood? The first portion manifests the god to be invoked for help, which is expressed on various hypocephali either directly as O Db3.ty or, indirectly, through the disarmingly powerful first person assertion: I am the Db3.ty. Next follows the prayer, a desperate prayer: Come to his aid! Third, we find a petition: Grant him a place in the solar retinue! Then comes the hoped-for conclusion: He is now even as Thou art.

8) We conclude our look at the Church Historian's version with figures 21, 20, and 19, in that order, which together ring in the conclusion of the whole. I follow Michael Rhodes's reading nearly verbatim. Rhodes (One Eternal Round, 345) translates: "You shall ever be as that God, the Busirian" (jw wnn=k m nTr pf Dd.wj). There is nothing wrong with the translation, except the reading pf [that], which, while something like a pf on Hedlock, matches not at all what is found on the Church Historian's copy. Yet there are as many ways to translate Egyptian, seemingly, as there are scholars and personalities--and where no modern reader can ever be completely correct, there is little need to quibble. Still, I believe it possible to open casement windows onto ever broader views of the Egyptian universe.

A second try yields jw wnn=k m nTr b3 Dd.t: "You shall forever be even as that god who is the Ba of Mendes" (typically, b3 nb Dd.t or the Dd.tj). I'm taking the lower signs found on the Church Historian's copy of fig. 20 to be traces of the head of a horned animal (two protuberances rise from the "head"); two downward curving lines may well be traces of the animal's neck or lower body. On similar hypocephalus panels more than one hieroglyph writes ba: reclining rams, ram's heads, and ba-birds all appear and together make up the eight ba's of the greatest god. A comparison with other hypocephali shows a match between the traces on the Church Historian copy and the hieroglyph of a ram's head, Gardiner sign-list F8 (Edinburgh hypocephalus, Cairo SR 10691, etc.).

While Rhodes is correct in reading the "Busirian," that is, the "one of Busiris" (the ancient place (bu) of Osiris in the Delta), it would be just as correct to read the "Mendesian," the "one of Mendes," the Delta home of the Ram who became both Re and Osiris. The earliest settlers of Mendes called the place 'Anepat (Place of Greenness), for "Green pastures and meadows stretched to the west and south" (Donald B. Redford, City of the Ram-Man: The Story of Ancient Mendes [Princeton, 2010], 2). 'Anepat was later also called Djedet, after the place of burial near the shrine of the Ram. Any reader of One Eternal Round will recall the importance of the color green and the symbolism of green gems in the story of the hypocephalus. The color of the Mendesian ram itself was white, and, according to the third century BC Mendes Stela, the local inhabitants first discovered the white ram in the verdant western meadows at the First Time (see D. Redford, City of the Ram-Man). The contrast of brilliant greens and whites strikes the imagination, these also being "the canonical colors of the Egyptian temple" (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment). Green is famously the color of Osiris, while white not only registers dawn (Eg. HD and HD.t) but also suggests that totality of universal color and ineffable beauty locked in the iris and thus in the pupil-and-iris imagery of the Transcendent Hidden Amun who hides in his wedjat-eye, imagery best expressed by the shape and symbolism of the hypocephalus (see D. Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168-9).

The same hieroglyphs were used interchangeably for both Mendes and Busiris in later Egyptian--and meaningfully so! The Ashmolean hypocephalus of Tashenhapy (Ashmolean 88), on the panel just below the four-headed ram, gives us the label "Osiris nb Dd.t." And, here, given the name of Osiris, we must read "Lord of Busiris," although, given the fourfold ram, we must also keep Mendes well in sight. Busiris is the place, but Mendes is the place too. In fact, D + d + t--so it appears on the Church Historian's copy--properly spells Mendes. The Egyptians call the place Pr-b3-nb-Dd.t (House of the Ba [or Ram], Lord of Djedet). So we open the window a little further.

Busiris is indeed the place, "but," as the Prophet Joseph would say, "in this case, in relation to this subject the Egyptians meant it [the hieroglyph] to signify," or point to Mendes and its Ram or Ba (one word in Egyptian). Such interlocking associations bespeak mystery and, indeed, "the concept of the four-headed ram, the four divine essences united in one, is perhaps the most recondite of the doctrines centering on Ba-neb-djed [Mendes]," and "is certainly already present in the late New Kingdom" (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 223). The Mendesian Ram, with his four faces, is the United Ba of Re and Osiris, the very being pictured in the center of all hypocephali (see Rhodes and Nibley, One Eternal Round, 261; Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 98ff., 168-9).

And it's just possible to open the window a bit more, for, as the Hedlock plate shows, the hieroglyphs even more specifically point to Heliopolis, a place name found repeatedly on Facsimile 2: D + d + t + the determinative sign of land: "Name der Nekropolis von Heliopolis" (Woerterbuch V, 630, 10). What the likeness in place name signifies is best expressed by Professor Donald Redford: "As protector of his people in death the [Mendesian] Ram becomes in truth the Lord of the Abiding Place, Neb Djedet. . . There were Abiding Places [Dd.t] also at 'Pillar City' [Heliopolis]. . . and at 'Aneza [Busiris], the Pasturage, one day's journey to the southwest. All three cities enjoyed the link of name derived from the same [West Semitic] root and indicative of similar function; but it was with 'Aneza that 'Anepat [Mendes] had the closest association" (D. Redford, City of the Ram-Man, 29).

The Mendesian Ram is thus also the Heliopolitan Ba and the Osiris of Busiris: he is the United Ba (b3 dmD), the Secret Ba, or Ram (b3 St3w), even the Transcendent Amun-Re (and Re-Osiris) in the form of a four-headed Ram. In the Coffin Texts (VI 404) the United Ba of Mendes takes the form of two fledglings, imagery that recalls Facsimile 2, figure 4: ship-with-fledgling. What appears on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus, panels 19-21, thus thematically matches that found in the same panels on other hypocephali: the theme of the fullness of the bas of the Ba of Bas, the Ram of Rams. Interestingly, both figures 1 and 2 on Facsimile 2 carry the legend name of that (greatest) god, an ambiguous label that nonetheless places focus on the transcendent importance of the Name of the greatest god of all gods. The lazy, at such an impasse, will stretch for the latest encyclopedia on Egyptology with its standard lists of gods (as also found in primary school textbooks). But it takes more effort than consultation of handbooks to "hie to Kolob." Klotz struggles for the best way to render the divine name: the Cosmic Deity, the Cosmic Shu-Amun, the Transcendent Amun (Adoration, 183).

"A universal purview," says Professor Redford, "attaches itself to the Ram of Mendes. He becomes the Father of the Gods, the Ram of Rams, the King of the Gods, the Manifestation (bai) of every god, the Heir of Tatenen (the primordial earth-god), the Unique God with overwhelming awfulness" (Redford, City of the Ram-Man, 134). His being is "unrestricted in the universe" (Ibid). He is earth, water, heat, air: "Besides his essence as the earth, he is also water 'who comes as the inundation that he may bring life to the Two Lands.' As the Living One of Re he becomes the source of living heat 'that brightens heaven and earth with his rays'; as the air 'he is breath for all people' " (Ibid). As the quadripartite Ram, he is "identified as the great creator, the 'Complete One' ('Itm)," or Atum, even " 'He Who Rises on the Horizon with Four Faces' " (Ibid., 135). Professor Redford concludes by setting forth the Ram of Mendes as the manifestation "of the union of dynamic solar power (Re) with latent fertility (Osiris);" by further noting "the addition of the embodiment of national existence, Amun-re [as state god]," we end up with "a primordial deity of unequaled antiquity and immanence" (Ibid., 135-6).

In the second theophany of the Book of Abraham (2:6-13), the God of the Universe reveals his Name as follows:

"I am the Lord thy God; I dwell in heaven; the earth is my footstool; I stretch my hand over the sea, and it obeys my voice; I cause the wind and the fire to be my chariot; I say to the mountains--Depart hence--and behold, they are taken away by a whirlwind, in an instant, suddenly. My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from the beginning.

And I will make of thee a great nation. . . and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood) and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood). . . shall all the families of the earth be blessed."

If the theme of the Book of Abraham is the patriarchal line of Priesthood authority, should we be surprised to learn that the four-headed ram on the hypocephalus is the symbol par excellence of patriarchy? In the Coffin Texts the Creator tells Pharaoh: "I changed myself into the Ram Lord of Djedet [Mendes], I copulated with thy noble mother in order to procreate thy physical being" (Redford, City of the Ram-Man, 133, who cites KRI II, 263:5-11; Urk IV, 224:17). And, according to the Mendes Stela, the four heads represent the Ba's of Re, Osiris, Shu, Geb, and "these happen to be the male progenitors of the Heliopolitan cosmogony (Re-Atum begat Shu, Shu begat [we're being very biblical here] Geb, Geb begat Osiris)" (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 99). All this recalls David Klotz's observation that the god is not only heavenly and transcendent, but also composed of the four elements of the earth, even "mineralized." These four elements match the symbolism of the four sons of Horus depicted on the lower panel of the hypocephalus, which four the Prophet Joseph associates with "the earth in its four quarters" (Fac. 2, fig. 6, explanation).

And Hugh Nibley has much to say both about these sons of Horus and about the odd way in which figure 1 is depicted as sitting directly on the earth (One Eternal Round, 241, 299ff.). Taking a cue from a 19th century student of the hypocephalus, Theodule Deveria (1831-1871), who called our figure 1, "the spirit of the four elements," Nibley reminds us that the canopic figures (the four sons) represent "the bringing together of the elements of the earth" (OER, 299). They also recall the Jewish tradition about the creation of Adam out of the four basic elements taken from the corners of the world: fire, air earth, water (OER, 301). So too, Klotz, citing yet another 19th century student, Heinrich Karl Brugsch (1827-1894), tells how the four heads of the ram not only signal the patriarchal line of descent but also represent fire (Re), wind (Shu), earth (Geb), and water (Osiris) (Adoration, 99).

The line of descent comes down from heaven to earth, from Re to Osiris, the father of Horus, who is the earthly Pharaoh in all his generations. It's marvelous how Nibley sees a connection to all these things not only in Jewish tradition but in Greek myth. The Greeks know a Pharaoh Busiris with a powerful brother named Antaeus, "who could not be separated from the earth" from whence he drew his strength (OER, 241). Busiris recalls the wording on our hypocephalus. But what about Mendes? The Great Amun Hymn from Hibis Temple (col. 26) describes the four-headed ram of Mendes as being composed of the four divinities of Anpet or 'Anepat, the first name of Mendes (Adoration, 110ff.). In light of Antaeus being the brother of Busiris, the phonological correspondence of 'Anepat and Antaeus may be significant.

The line of patriarchal authority does not end with Osiris. Osiris is the father of Horus, who embodies all future kings. A new morning--a "first creation"--is always at hand: "The association with the Mendesian Ram (= Re-Osiris) also connects the four-headed deity with the newly reborn solar deity in the morning," that is, "He Who Rises on the Horizon with Four Faces" (Adoration, 168; see also OER, 261).

It's not just sunrise that we're talking about here. "The sun," says Thoreau, "is but a morning star"--and here we confront the super sun of all suns, the star of stars, or Ba of bas. This is Kolob; or to use the Egyptian phrase: "that Lord Re of all other Re's (r' pw nb r'.w nb = Heinrich Brugsch, Thesaurus inscriptionum aegyptiaerum [Leipzig, 1883], 1:78f.).


Copyright 2010 by Val Sederholm

The following updates now appear as three separate posts, dated 20 April 2012. These posts include additional text. ("Kolob in Color," in particular, has been much expanded during the last seven days--26 April 2012)

Update: 7 April 2012

I have recently looked at Professor Robert K. Ritner's attempt to translate the hypocephalus, as found in his The Joseph Smith Egyptian Papyri: A Complete Edition ("Hypocephalus of Sheshonq," 215-226). Among other useful observations, Professor Ritner reads the sign found in figure 12 not as sDr.w but Sps (noble). Upon reexamination of the sign, I concur. Close comparison of the Church Historian's copy and of Hedlock against other hypocephali, which often speak of the "noble god," shows that the upper half of the Sps sign had been partially rubbed away. So much for my wonderful ideas about Kolob as the god asleep in the zp tpj. "Twixt wake and sleep," Kolob stands awake.

Getting things wrong is what it's all about--what learning is all about. We should be profoundly grateful for any new knowledge about Facsimile 2 of the sacred Book of Abraham, and, in this case, the new reading of the sign has enormous significance.

Sps instead of sDr? I had wondered about the same thing, yet strongly resisted the idea because I did not think j nTr Spsj m zp tpj made as much sense as did sDr m zp tpj (in light of my wonderful theory and because the following -s had either been partly erased or is not clear from the copy: Sps + s = Spsw, etc.). But of course it does make sense. So thanks to Dr. Ritner.

We must consider m zp tpj, in this case, to mean the same as hrw pn nj msw.t=f (this day of his birth ~ sunrise ~ in the first moment), as found on another hypocephalus. In other words, the appeal to a "princely, exalted, lordly, noble, high-ranking god (manifest) in the First Moment" is an appeal to the most exalted entity among the "great and noble ones" and whose descending brightness and brilliance fill the entire universe with light and life. Thus he is also lord of heaven, earth, netherworld, mountains, etc, with power to enliven the Osirian Ba. According to the Prophet Joseph, Figure 1 (Kolob) signifies "the first creation" and is also "First in government." If nTr Spsj speaks of a princely, or principal, governing god, then m zp tpj, "in the first time," matches "the first creation."

How nicely everything matches up. The third chapter of Abraham records the vision of Kolob and the stars--thus matching Facsimile 2--and Abraham 3:22 goes on to speak of the "noble and great ones" at the morn of creation (m zp tpj). Should we then be surprised to find on Facsimile 2 a pairing of the same words: "great" and "noble"? On the left-hand panel we read both j nTr Spsw (O noble god; Leiden AMS 62: O noble ba-spirit) and nTr a3 (great god) on the right: j nTr pf a3 (O this great god). How closely "noble" and "great" belong together in these texts is made clear by the wording of the left-hand panels on Leiden AMS 62. The prayer found thereon matches that of Facsimile 2, with one exception. The prayer begins: j nTr pf Spsj instead of a3. Abraham, we are told, stood among those who qualified as both Sps and a3--and so does his restored book of scripture stand among the records of antiquity.

As Hugh Nibley would say, to find "noble and great" as yoke-fellows not on the hypocephali alone, but also in Abraham chapter 3 is a "direct hit" for the Book of Abraham. The translation of Abraham 3:22 thus partakes of the "specific and the peculiar," which means not only specific to the culture and language but peculiar to a specific kind of document and to a specific theme. (The principal theme of Abraham 3 is the nature of greatness and rank.) I note of late a faddish scepticism over the Book of Abraham. I meet such intellectual posing, such prompt dismissal with wonder.

Update 2: 17 April 2012

I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen (Abraham 3:21).

"I came down in the beginning"--the words accord well with the teachings of the hypocephalus, as we shall see.

On the rim of the hypocephalus, we read: jnk Db3.ty m Hw.t bnbn m jwnw q3 3x zp 2 (I am the Djebaty--the one of the Djeba--in the House of the Benben in Heliopolis, On High, On High; Glorious; Glorious). The first lesson in reading Facsimile 2 centers around that one title, Djebaty. Hugh Nibley, who calls it "perhaps the most significant word on the Joseph Smith hypocephalus," pauses long over that significant word until the lesson is learned, the lesson of many meanings, many shades of meaning.

The title bespeaks mystery: Djebat, in nominal form "is the name of a place or a building," a "dwelling of the gods, Palace, Chapel" as also box or chest; the nisba form, Djebaty, says Conrad Leemans, is "both a divine person and a personified object." Djebat, continues Nibley "is also the name of the ancient city of Edfu to which the hypocephali properly belong, according to Speleers." Indeed the hypocephali "invoke and represent the Sun of Edfu, considered from of old 'the most perfect form of cosmic energy'" (Hugh Nibley, "The Three Facsimilies from the Book of Abraham," 1980, citing Louis Speleers, Catalogue des intailles et empreintes orientales des Musees Royaux de Art et de Histoire, Supplement, Bruxelles, 1943; Hugh Nibley and Michael Rhodes, One Eternal Round, 335 [and section headings: 'Between Heaven and Earth,' 335-340, and 'The Ceremonial Complex,' 340-341], quoting Conrad Leemans, "Hypocephale egyptien du Musee Royal Neerlandais d'Antiquites a Leide," in Actes du sixieme Congres Internationale des Orientalistes, 1885, 125-26, italics added).

To the many possible readings of Db3.ty, several of which point to nature and roles of the cosmic deity, I add still another. Because Db3, at Edfu, can also refer to the reed that springs from the primeval mound, Db3.ty, as "the one of the primeval reed," suggests the descent of the Creator at the beginning: "I came down in the beginning." The Edfu cosmology, in fact, yields two words (nbi.t, Db3) for the reed "upon which the first Falcon deity might perch" (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 106). And such sacred writings, it should be remembered, are indeed "to be found in the temple of God," being literally engraven on the walls of Edfu Temple.

But what has a reed perch to do with the House of the Benben in Heliopolis?

"I was alone together with Nun in inertness,
I not having found a place to sit or to stand.
Heliopolis not having been founded so I might be there,
The Papyrus Stalk (w3D) not having been bound so I might sit upon it."
(Great Amun Hymn, Adoration of the Ram, 106)

That word, w3D, by the way, appears in the same panel as figure 1 on another hypocephalus on which four baboons offer what appear to be two lotuses and two papyrus stalks to a two-headed ram in the freshness of morning. That same hypocephalus (Turin 2333), yet bright with reds and greens, on the very same panel, also features a heron on a perch! The heron is the bennu-bird, a correlate with the benben-house. It rests on a perch while the flood inundates the land. Another perched bird also appears on the panel. Together, perching birds and sprouts and flowers tell one story: the stars of morning shout for joy.

It is clear from the Great Amun Hymn that the foundation of Heliopolis and the up-springing of the Perch go together. The House of the Benben, as the place of the benben-stone or pillar, is, in fact, also the place of the perch. No wonder the god is described on the hypocephalus rim as doubly lofty, even exalted (q3j), as well as doubly glorious. Like the sun in the sky, the descending god, alighting on his Reed or Pillar or Stalk, brightens the new creation, the first creation, with splendid light. The hieroglyph of the heron on a perch denotes the "inundation" (imHw) and connotes a veritable flood of light. (So is the Pearl of Great Price "a veritable flood of light.") Glorious, glorious Kolob bathes the worlds in cascading apportionment.

Djeba also signifies the harpoon of Horus, a most sacred object, which surely marks both possession and victory. (No surprise, then, to spy Horus with his spear on the lower half of Turin 2333 and other exemplars.) "Descent, in Afroasiatic semantics, connotes 'battle': it is the swift descent upon an enemy, with ringing battle-cry. And the descent (or attack) stirs the hidden, passive depths into action" (Sederholm, Papyrus British Museum 10808 and Its Cultural and Religious Setting, 78).

Db3.ty, which may also signal Osiris in his coffin, box, or shrine (all Djeba) down at the nadir of all things, may therefore also signify, in a "coincidence of opposites" that is key to the Re-Osiris doctrine, "the one of the lofty reed perch" or "he who pertains to the reed perch." The United-Ba of Re and Osiris, who takes the form of the Ram of Mendes, linked as he is to the Cosmic Amun, becomes the "ultimate, transcendent deity, residing simultaneously in heaven and earth" (David Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 168). "The key theological concern of later Egyptian religion [is] the solar-Osirian opposition. The opposition, the balancing of the poles of the universe, also holds the key to the workings of life in all three of its manifest (or hidden) realms: heaven, earth (or temple) and Netherworld. Re and Osiris meet, in a moment of awful suspense, in order to reconcile life's contrarieties and ensure its continual renewal. In response to the mighty shout of joy that follows in the wake of the sun, the cold, hidden world of death stirs inwardly into blossom" (Papyrus British Museum 10808, 77).

The reed marks both place and moment of descent, for the Egyptians the holy moment of investiture, of inhabitation, of enlivening, even an at-one-ment of worlds above and below (see Papyrus British Museum 10808, 66). "I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences (3x.w)": I came down to earth, to the primeval hill, as Tatenen, as Shepsi, as Amun, the Cosmic Creative god, the First Creation. And--I came down, as Re, to hear the words of Osiris. At Hibis the Mendesian Ram, our Kolob ram, bears the epithet sDm-wrj, the Great Listener (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 170; see right-hand panel, Facsimile 2).

Tatenen? Shepsi? David Klotz (Adoration of the Ram, 78, 100-101) reminds us that the hieroglyphic sign for Sps (noble) or Shepsi (the Noble one), in its Late Period form, may also be read as Tnn (distinguished) or t3-Tnn (Tatenen, the creator associated with the primeval mound, as "distinguished earth"). And if it may be so read, it must be so read: so the rule in Egyptian. (The two high feathers of the noble on this sign link it also, to be sure, with figure 2, Oliblish.) A text beginning with the invocation "O netjer Shepsi in the Zep Tepi" resounds with the mythological and ritual depths of Hermopolitan cosmology (for it is in Hermopolis that Shepsi names the creative solar god, later also associated with the Cosmic Amun). (See also One Eternal Round for the Tatenen and the crown worn by Oliblish.)

Nothing drawn or written on the hypocephalus is as it first appears--or ever appears--the resonance is deep, fathoms so. Given the synthetic concision of these Late Egyptian writings, which bind the secret cosmogonic fullness of one ancient religious center to another in what appear to be crisp, abbreviated one liners, only a fool would claim competency. The very simplicity of the signs, the ease of ready translation, becomes a barrier that fences the kernel of meaning from view. Such matters ultimately require a divine touch, seeric insight, a Zaphnath-Paaneah, Joseph.

Update 3, 20 April 2012

The color of Kolob--Kolob in color
(as through the lens of the parti-color Turin 2333)

The ram of Mendes finds representation on the hypocephalus (and in certain other texts) as a four-headed ram. The heads represent the four powers, energies, spirits, or the four ba's of the Cosmic Deity. The union of Re and Osiris, as the Cosmic Deity, the Transcendent Amun, or, even, Amun within the Iris produces the fourfold energy that extends to the farthest regions of day, reaches the edges of the existent.

The several texts, resonant in symbolism, variously name each of the four ba's of the Mendesian Ram (the evidence may be reviewed in A. Egbert's, In Quest of Meaning, 163-65). The following designations occur variously: the red ba, the green ba, the ba of Shu, the ba of Khepri, the ba of Shepsi (or the "august ba"), the white ba, and the bright ba. Such are the designations "assigned to Re, Osiris, Shu, and Khepri" (164): The August ba of Re, the Green (Blue?) Ba of Shu, the red ba of Geb, the bright ba of Osiris (ba Sps nj r', b3 w3D nj Sw, b3 dSr nj gb, b3 b3q nj wsjr [b3q ~ brq? = "lightening"; "transcendent"? = 163).

Professor Egbert tries his upmost to put order and chronology into the which color fits which god and when and why, and which list makes for canon: but this is Egypt, a place where both word and element resists reigning in or a tidying up. Both the red ba and the green can therefore (but hardly justifying a logical "therefore") refer to just Re; or, to Re and Osiris, respectively--and so on. Again, are red and green really red and green? or are they rellow and gruen? Is the sun red or yellow? Is green the blue sky? or the freshness of renewed growth? I note that Turin 2333 includes both red and green paint: Kolob is red, his attendant stars, green (with red countenance).

As Wolfgang Schenkel sets forth in an essential paper, the Egyptians separate basic color words into four abstract colors: red, green, white, black ("Die Farben in aegyptischer Kunst und Sprache," ZAS 88 (1963), 131-47). But how do these basic color words function? What is the semiotic significance beyond the semantic? That is: How do they add color to the ambience of the Egyptian mind and outlook? Professor Schenkel advises us to divide the four into two sets. Red and Green are the warm and the cold tones that paint the world across a broad spectrum of perceived color: "the yellows, oranges, and reds of such distinctly painted objects as natron, flamingos, desert walls and floor, and myrrh" (Sederholm, Papyrus 10808, 190). White and Black signify contrast, the spectrum of brightness. Such a manner of ordering color words, and clearly ordering color as well, covers the entire field of light.

What you would then expect is: the red ba, the green ba, the white ba, and the black. Of these, black alone has slipped away.

This is exactly what must happen. The black ba--black energy, black light--can never be. Black stands before being comes into being, before the splendor, before the ba. Thus, the white ba is, sometimes, continued with the so-called bright ba. More simply, other than the red ba and the green, these further ba's often take a divine name, such as the ba of Shu--Shu in streaming atmospheric brightness--and the ba of sunburst Khepri. It is not so much as matter of euphemism but of a necessary replacement.

The four color words, colors, tones, contrasts, elements, or features thus together make up the Ram of Mendes (Adoration of the Ram, 168). The color words, as perfect registers for the four-headed Mendesian Ram, are directional, temporal, divinized (Re, Osiris, Shu, Khepri)--and elemental (minerals, members of the body, elements of fire (Re), air (Shu), earth (Geb), water (Osiris). In other words, color and its linguistic and semiotic signature is a sine qua non of the Egyptian story of creation. Creation happens in color, and by color; and color continues. The Egyptian verb xpr, to come into being, to change shape, to reach transformation of being, is a verb of coloring.

Light, the Egyptians well know, is Color, as is Life. But we do not find a Newtonian notion of white light being composed of a blending of the colors. No. These colors or elements of color make up a parti-color iris, the symbol which the round of the hypocephalus presents us, according to David Klotz. Three extant hypocephali "identify this mysterious figure" of the Transcendent Amun, or Cosmic Shu-Amun, as follows: I am the iris within the wedjat-eye, jnk p3 DfD m-Hnw wD3.t. "Thus, the supreme deity with whom the deceased wished to identify with was the four-ram-headed deity, the 'iris of the wedjat,' or the deity with the flames"--as if "circling flames of fire" (Adoration of the Ram, 183; Doctrine and Covenants 137:2). "Circling flames of fire" indeed: The one "whose body is that of a human, with four ram heads [is] covered with millions upon millions of eyes and 777 ears" (Edfu text quoted in Adoration of the Ram, 168). Neither is black ever out of the picture; for it is as iris-cum-pupil that the round cosmic map finally comes into focus. "It is Re who transforms his likeness into Four Faces in order to take shape from within Nun" (Edfu III 35, 4-5 = Sederholm, Papyrus 10808, 128). From out the waters of Nun, from chaos, from the night and its rushing waters, there comes the cascade of light in color, the iris sunburst. It's a miracle.

An even greater miracle unfolds to the faithful: Of "those relating to the (solar) iris," these are they who "through proper solar worship while on earth. . . could hope to finally join the solar iris, and to in fact go further and behold the perfection (m33 nfrw), the true form (irw m3') that is hidden within" (Klotz, Adoration of the Ram, 182). "I saw the transcendent beauty of the gate through which the heirs of that kingdom will enter, which was like unto circling flames of fire" (Joseph Smith, Doctrine and Covenants 137:2).

"In what distant deeps or skies/ Burnt the fire of thine eyes?" (Blake). "The sun is but a morning star" (Thoreau). Beyond, we are assured, fan out "a plurality of skies" (Erik Hornung, Books of the Afterlife, 12).











Copyright 2010 by Val H. Sederholm