2012/10/29

Luxor Temple


The first glimpse many visitors have of this temple is from the river when their cruise liner docks alongside the Corniche el Nil.  From there, it is easy to visualise the sacred barques that long ago brought the god Amun-Min and his wife Mut down the river from Karnak for their annual honeymoon during the Opet Festival.  The temple is clearly visible from the Corniche and at night makes a spectacular sight as its courtyards and statues are floodlit until the temple closes.  


If you look carefully at the aerial photograph shown above, you can see that the layout of the temple is not symmetrical and that its axis is slightly skewed.  Amenophis III, (Amenhotep - 18th dynasty) who also built a massive mortuary temple on the West Bank and the so-called Colossi of Memnon, built the larger straighter part of the temple and Ramses II (19th dynasty) built the skewed additions.  They were probably made at an angle to incorporate some earlier sanctuaries and to align with the avenue that once joined Luxor Temple to Karnak Temple.  The avenue was three kilometres long and during the 30th Dynasty was lined with sphinxes on the orders of Nectanebo.  Most of the Avenue has been lost under the buildings of modern Luxor, although an impressive line of them remains in the temple grounds.  















The original temple was small and honoured the annual Opet Festival which was held in the second month of summer when the Nile was in flood.  This early structure had shrines built by Hatshepsut which were later augmented by her brother Tutmosis III, but there are signs of a temple being there from the Middle Kingdom era.  The older parts of the temple were mainly dismantled and re-used when construction of the larger temple began and there is now little visual evidence of them.  During Amenophis's reign, the temple became known as the “Harem of the South” and it gained the magnificence that we see today.  A detailed floor plan of the temple is shown at the end of this article.

Although Amun Min was later brought to Luxor by river, originally he was carried along the Avenue and a carnival atmosphere would have prevailed.  The temple’s massive columns would have been brightly coloured and, during the Opet festival, its courtyards would be filled with music and dancing as priests, performed the rituals necessary to bring prosperity to Upper Egypt.  In ancient times, ordinary people would not have been allowed inside the temple precincts and only a carefully selected audience would witness these.  This ancient festival is now mirrored in the Abu el Haggag Moulid that takes places annually in the month of Charban, just before the start of Ramadan.  Abu el Haggag was a local Islamic holy man who, during the middle ages, was buried in a debris-filled shrine inside the temple.  A description of this Moulid can be found in the Religious Festivals section of the Guide to Luxor.

When the power of the priests dwindled and Thebes reverted to being a backwater, villagers made their homes inside the temple walls and brought their new religions with them.  Now, when you pass through the entrance, you not only see a colonnaded courtyard which is lined with statues of Ramses II but also a mosque which the villagers refused to destroy when they were moved out of the temple in the nineteenth century.  The mosque honours Abu el Haggag and as it is still in use, it means there has been 4,000 years of worship on this site.  It was rebuilt in the nineteenth century but it still has its original 11th century minaret.
        
The Abu el Haggag Mosque is still in use and marks 4,000 years of worship on the site.

In front of the temple’s first pylon, which is decorated with scenes of Ramses victory at the battle of Kadesh, is an obelisk that has four dog-headed baboons at its base.  In keeping with the temple’s fertility connections, the baboons originally had erect penises but despite surviving intact for thousands of years, they were unfortunately destroyed by over-prudish Victorian archaeologists.  The Obelisk was once one a pair but its counterpart now stands in the Place de la Concorde in Paris as it was given to Louis Phillippe as a gift.

         


Originally there were six statues of Ramses II at the front on the temple – four standing and two seated - but now only the two seated and one badly damaged
standing statue remain.  The seated statues sit either side of the entrance and stare towards Karnak.  To the left of the obelisk, mounted on a plinth, is an impressive stone head of Ramses II.

The first courtyard is surrounded by a double row of papyrus bud columns that once supported a roof, which would have provided the temple with darkness and a secretive air.  Between many of the columns are fine statues of Ramses standing with one foot forward, giving him stability and grace.  Reliefs, which were added later, show his funeral procession where he is attended by many of his numerous sons.  Also, there is an unusual relief of the temple itself showing its obelisks and banners.  This part of the temple is linked to the older part through the second pylon, which is flanked by colossal statues of Ramses seated.  Beyond this pylon, is a magnificent Colonnade of pillars, which was started by Amenophis III and added to by his grandson Tutankhamun and his successors, Ay and Horemheb.

At 21 metres high (68 feet), even today the Colonnade is impressive; when it was erected it would have been completely awe-inspiring.  The Colonnade has fourteen columns, all, with open papyrus capitals, that would have supported a roof.  This, together with the decorated walls, would have created an enclosed dark tunnel leading from darkness into light, which could have invoked religious ecstasies.  Only the base of the surrounding walls has survived but it gives a detailed account of the progression of the Opet festival, the purpose of which was to rejuvenate the King's powers as well as to honour the Gods.

Beyond the Colonnade is a large open-aired courtyard, which may have been dedicated by Amenophis III to the sun disc Aten.  This courtyard is innovative as it moves away from the usual secretive ambience, towards a celebration of light.

        

The unroofed solar courtyard leads from the darkness of the colonnade to a celebration of light

The Solar Courtyard is unpaved and in 1989, workmen accidentally discovered a cache of statues that had remained hidden for nearly two thousand years.  The statues had been buried during the Roman occupation when new Emperors had greater importance than old Pharaohs and somewhere had to be found to store surplus statuary.  Burying the statues preserved them and they now represent some of the finest examples of Egyptian craftsmanship.  Many of these statues are on display in Luxor Museum.

At the rear of the solar courtyard is a hypostyle hall that has thirty-six remaining columns, some of which are badly damaged.  Beyond that is a warren of some fifty chambers and sanctuaries that have been usurped, enlarged, embellished and in some cases plastered over as various monarchs left their mark.  At one time, it was thought that part of this area might have been used as a Christian Chapel, but this is now considered unlikely. 

This part of the temple is actually its heart, the place where the barques of Amun, Mut and their son Khonsu were kept during their brief stay.  Here also lies the birthing room, which proves the Pharaoh's divine is link with the gods.  Either Amenophis or Alexander is shown here being formed by the gods on a potter's wheel.  The sacred barque of Amun was housed in the Third Antechamber and four pillars marked the place where the barque was placed.  These pillars were replaced with a chamber during the reign of Alexander the Great and the change in building style is quite evident.

All around the temple are ruins of priests'' quarters and a garrison.  Piles of carved blocks salvaged from fallen walls lie waiting for reconstruction; which is a task that might be completed on a computer screen if not in real life.  However, with the new excavations that are taking place, their original positions might still be located.

In November 2005, work started to clear the way for making Luxor Temple part of the biggest open-air Museum in the world.  Millions of pounds became available to preserve the Temple from the rising water level, which was destroying the structure, and causing stonework to crack and decay.  In addition to this, modern buildings directly around the Temple have been scheduled for demolition so that archaeologists can uncover the foundations of more of the temple.  A road is also planned to once again join Luxor and Karnak Temples. 

The best time to see this temple is at dusk when the fading light gives an impression of how the temple would have looked when it had its roof.  The temple is floodlit and as the glow of the lights increases the true beauty of this temple becomes more evident. 

2012/10/27

Dream Stele


The Prince and the Sphinx


There was once a Prince in Egypt called Thutmose, who was a son of Pharaoh Amenhotep, and the grandson of Thutmose III who succeeded the great Queen Hatshepsut. He had many brothers and half-brothers, and because he was Pharaoh's favorite son they were forever plotting against him. Usually these plots were to make Pharaoh think that Thutmose was unworthy or unsuitable to succeed him; sometimes they were attempts to make the people or the priests believe that Thutmose was cruel or extravagant or did not honor the gods and so would make a bad ruler of Egypt; but once or twice the plots were aimed at his very life.




All this made Thutmose troubled and unhappy. He spent less and less of his time at Thebes or Memphis with Pharaoh's court, and more and more frequently rode on expeditions into Upper Egypt or across the desert to the seven great oases. And even when Pharaoh commanded his presence, or his position demanded that he must attend some great festival, he would slip away whenever he could with a few trusted followers, or even alone and in disguise, to hunt on the edge of the desert.
Thutmose was skilled in all manly exercises. He was a bowman who could plant arrow after arrow in the center of the target; he was a skilled charioteer, and his horses were faster than the wind. Sometimes he would course antelopes for miles across the sandy stretches of desert; at others he would seek out the savage lions in their lairs among the rocks far up above the banks of the Nile.
One day, when the court was in residence at Memphis for the great festival of Re at Heliopolis a few miles further down the Nile, Thutmose escaped from all the pomp and pageantry to hunt on the edge of the desert. He took with him only two servants, and he drove his own chariot up the steep road past Saqqara where the great Step Pyramid of Djoser stands, and away through the scrub and stunted trees where the cultivated land by the Nile faded into the stony waste and the stretches of sand and rock of the great Libyan desert.
They set off at the first glimmer of dawn so that they might have as much time as possible before the great heat of midday, and they coursed the gazelle northwards over the desert for many miles, parallel to the Nile but some miles away from it.
By the time the sun grew too hot for hunting Thutmose and his two followers had reached a point not very far away from the great Pyramids of Giza which the Pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty had built over twelve hundred years before.
They stopped to rest under some palm trees. But presently Thutmose, desiring to be alone and wishing to make his prayer to the great god Harmachis, entered his chariot and drove away over the desert, bidding his servants wait for him.
Away sped Thutmose, for the sand was firm and smooth, and at last he drew near to the three pyramids of Khufu, Khafra and Menkaura towering up towards the sky, the burning sun of midday flashing on their golden peaks and glittering down their polished sides like ladders of light leading up to the Boat of Re as it sailed across the sky.

Thutmose gazed in awe at these man-made mountains of stone. But most of all his attention was caught by a gigantic head and neck of stone that rose out of the sand between the greatest of the pyramids and a nearly-buried mortuary temple of huge squared stone blocks that stood on either side of the stone causeway leading from the distant Nile behind him right to the foot of the second pyramid - that of the Pharaoh Khafra.
This was a colossal carving of Harmachis the god of the rising sun, in the form of a lion with the head of a Pharaoh of Egypt - the form he had taken when he became the hunter of the followers of Set. Khafra had caused this 'sphinx' to be carved out of an outcrop of solid rock that happened to rise above the sand near the processional causeway leading from the Nile to his great pyramid. And he had bidden his sculptors shape the head and face of Harmachis in the likeness of his own.
During the long centuries since Khafra had been laid to rest in his pyramid the sands of the desert had blown against the Sphinx until it was almost buried. Thutmose could see no more than its head and shoulders, and a little ridge in the desert to mark the line of its back. For a long while he stood looking up into the majestic face of the Sphinx, crowned with the royal crown of Egypt that had the cobra's head on its brow and which held in place the folds of embroidered linen which kept the sun from head and neck - only here the folds were of stone and only the head of the serpent fitted onto the carved rock was of gold.
The noonday sun beat mercilessly down upon Thutmose as he gazed up at the Sphinx and prayed to Harmachis for help in all his troubles.
Suddenly it seemed to him that the great stone image began to stir. It heaved and struggled as if trying in vain to throw off the sand which buried its body and paws, and the eyes were no longer carved stone inlaid with lapis lazuli, but shone with life and vision as they looked down upon him. Then the Sphinx spoke to him in a great voice, and yet kindly as a father speaks to his son.
"Look upon me, Thutmose, Prince of Egypt, and know that I am Harmachis your father - the father of all Pharaohs of the Upper and Lower Lands. It rests with you to become Pharaoh indeed and wear upon your head the Double Crown of South and North; it rests with you whether or not you sit-upon the throne of Egypt, and whether the peoples of the world come and kneel before you in homage. If you indeed become Pharaoh whatever is produced by the Two Lands shall be yours, together with the tribute from all the countries of the world. Besides all this, long years of life, health and strength shall be yours.
"Thutmose, my face is turned towards you, my heart inclines to you to bring you good things, your spirit shall be wrapped in mine. But see how the sand has closed in round me on every side: it smothers me, it holds me down, it hides me from your eyes. Promise me that you will do all that a good son should do for his father; prove to me that you are indeed my son and will help me. Draw near to me, and I will be with you always, I will guide you and make you great."
Then, as Thutmose stepped forward the sun seemed to shine from the eyes of Harmachis the Sphinx so brightly that they dazzled him and the world went black and spun round him so that he fell insensible on the sand.
When he recovered the sun was sinking towards the summit of Khafra's pyramid and the shadow of the Sphinx lay over him.
Slowly he rose to his feet, and the vision he had seen came rushing back into his mind as he gazed at the great shape half-hidden in the sand which was already turning pink and purple in the evening light.
"Harmachis, my father!" he cried, "I call upon you and all the gods of Egypt to bear witness to my oath. If I become Pharaoh, the first act of my reign shall be to free this your image from the sand and build a shrine to you and set in it a stone telling in the sacred writing of Khem of your command and how I fulfilled it."
Then Thutmose turned to seek his chariot; and a moment later his servants, who had been anxiously searching for him, came riding up.
Thutmose rode back to Memphis, and from that day all went well with him. Very soon Amenhotep the Pharaoh proclaimed him publicly as heir to the throne; and not very long afterwards Thutmose did indeed become King of Egypt one of her greatest Kings.
The Afterward
Just a hundred and fifty years ago - 3,230 years after Thutmose IV became Pharaoh of Egypt - the Sphinx, again buried to the neck in sand, was dug out by an early archaeologist. Between its paws he found the remains of a shrine in which stood a red granite tablet fourteen feet high. Inscribed on it in hieroglyphs was the whole story of the Prince and the Sphinx. The tablet also tells us that it was set there in fulfillment of his vow by Pharaoh Thutmose IV in the third month of the first year of his reign, after he had cleared away all the sand which hid from sight Harmachis, the great Sphinx that had been made in the days of Khafra, when the world was young.

2012/10/23

King Menes unites Upper and Lower Egypt

    From 3900 to 3100 B.C., the villages along the Nile valley grew in wealth and power. Two of these villages became particularly powerful and wealthy, so much so that it is not an exaggeration to think of them as cities. In the north, the city of Nekheb grew powerful, while in the south, Nekhen grew powerful. Around 3000 BC, the rivalry between these two towns erupted into war.    Upper Egypt would emerge victorious in this war and dominate all of Egypt. We are told that this unification was brought about by the warrior-king Menes, whose name in Egyptian was Narmer. Of all the kings of Egypt, Narmer is among the most legendary; for according to Egyptians, he united the two parts of Egypt and became the first king of the Two Lands, Upper and Lower Egypt. The unification of Egypt, however, probably took a few generations. Whatever the truth, the history of Egyptian kings begins with Narmer (Menes) who founded the first dynasty of Egyptian kings. The symbol of this unification are the two crowns of Egypt, the white crown (Upper Egypt) and the red crown (Lower Egypt); these crowns would be combined to form the single crown of the king.


   
The unification of the two lands was the single most important event in Egyptian history. It allowed for a large, single government which then undertook massive administrative and building projects. Large-scale irrigation projects were begun as well as large-scale distribution of food and regulation of trade.

Egypt became very wealthy. The first kings of Egypt were so successful, that they could build expensive tombs for themselves; these tombs, called mastaba were dug into the ground and covered by a rectangular building. They were larger and wealthier than anything ever seen before.

At the same time, the Egyptians invented writing. Large-scale government and the need for record-keeping certainly motivated this invention. This early form of writing which took the form of pictures (pictographic writing) eventually developed into hieroglyphics or medu netcher ("words of the gods") in ancient Egyptian.

   But perhaps the most important consequence of unification was the mix of government and religion. In order to legitimate the authority of the king, the early dynastic kings and their administrators invented an institution which was a much higher power than the individual king or his administrators. The king became a divine king, a living god incarnate in the king, who brought about fertility and life to the people he ruled. Egypt, then, was a theocratic ("theo"=god, "cratic"=ruled by) state. To question the authority of the king was blasphemy.


2012/10/21

Symbol of Isis

  Egyptian Symbol of Isis

Patron of Mothers
Compassion, Esoteric Arts, Perseverance, Maternal Love, Nurturing.
Help from the other side is at hand.
The issue in question should be persevered with and nurtured, and not pushed forward too quickly.
Trust your intuition for something may be hidden from view at this point.
Psychic and spiritual development.

Symbol of Isis



A period of going within to plant seeds for the next stage of your life.
A time of retreat to absorb lessons learnt on a physical level.
People involved in the welfare of others ie the caring professions.
A time for taking time out for self care ie getting close to nature, walking in a park or along a beach. 

 

Symbol of Horus

Egyptian Symbol of Horus

Patron of Families & Homes
Courage, Creativity, Balance, The Arts, Beauty, Family,

Strong healing energies for conditions affecting the physical body.
Family situations, family loyalty, reliability and devotion.
A good omen for those who feel they have been unfairly treated.
Personal charm and charisma.
Nurture creative talents be they musical, dancing, painting etc.



Symbol of Osiris

  Egyptian Symbol of Osiris

Father Figure - A Tree Stability, Wisdom, Honesty, Justice, Respect for those older and wiser, Philosophical matters, Responsibility, A Father Figure.

 Spiritual strength in times of need.
Rely upon your own judgement.
A time for laying foundations and putting roots down.
A degree of security and a stability.

Success through practical efforts and self-discipline.
Take responsibility for your spiritual growth and the direction your life takes.
Take responsibility for your decisions.
May be a need to become more grounded.
A time of Action. 
 

Buckle of Isis

 Egyptian Symbol Buckle of Isis

 Signe of Fertility, Loyalty, Growth with a sacrifice.
Represents Loyalty to family & friends.

Represents prosperity in investments, the family, farming or anything you care to name, however, there is a price to pay at some point in the proceedings.

People who give up valuable careers to care for family or nurse or care for another person.
Can also indicate a new addition to the family, promotion at work which may entail overtime or more stress.
   

  Buckle of Isis

2012/10/18

Ancient Egypt Gods



Anubis as the God of Embalming, the son of Nephthys, depicted as a jackal, or as a jackal-headed man probably because of the jackal's tendency to prowl around tombs, he became associated with the dead, and by the Old Kingdom, worshipped as the inventor of embalming, who had embalmed the dead Osiris, thus helping preserve him in order to live again.

Apis- an early deity, probably the best known Egyptian deity represented only as an animal, he was represented as a bull crowned with the solar disk and serpent, he was primarily a deity of fertility.

Aten- the sun-disk itself, depicted as a disk with rays, each ray terminating in a human hand and bestowing symbols of "life" upon those below.

Bast- a cat-goddess, protector of cats and those who cared for cats, as a result, an important deity in the home (since cats were prized pets).

Geb- the god of the earth, he is generally represented as a man with green or black skin - the color of living things, and the color of the fertile Nile mud, Geb is masculine, contrasting with many other traditions of Earth being female.

 Hathor- a very old goddess of Egypt, worshiped as a cow-deity from earliest times, she was usually shown with a solar disk flanked by cow horns on her head, she was also the patron of love, dance, alcohol, and foreign lands.

Horus-one of the most important deities of Egypt. As the Child, Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis, who, upon reaching adulthood, avenges his father's death, by defeating and castrating his evil uncle Set, he then became the divine prototype of the Pharaoh.

Imhotep- a historical figure. He was the architect, physician, scribe, and vizier (adviser) of the 3rd Dynasty pharaoh Zoser, conceived and built the Step Pyramid at Sakkara.
In the Late Period, Imhotep was worshipped as the son of Ptah and a god of medicine, as well as the patron of scribes.
He was one of the few mortals born of common blood to be elevated to the rank of deity.

Isis- Perhaps the most important goddess (or god, for that matter) of all Egyptian mythology, her most important functions, however, were those of motherhood, marital devotion, healing the sick, and the working of magical spells and charms, she was believed to be the most powerful magician in the universe, owing to the fact that she had learned the Secret Name of Ra from the god himself, she was the sister and wife of Osiris, sister of Set, and twin sister of Nephthys, and was the mother of Horus, responsible for protecting Horus from Set during his infancy; for helping Osiris to return to life; and for assisting her husband to rule in the land of the Dead.

Nephthy-s"Lady of the House", the youngest child of Geb and Nut, The sister and wife of Set, and sister of Isis and Osiris; also the mother of Anubis, She abandoned Set when he killed Osiris, and assisted Isis in the care of Horus and the resurrection of Osiris, he was, along with her sister, considered the special protectress of the dead, and she was the guardian of Hapi, the protector of the lungs of the deceased.

 Nut- the goddess of the sky, depicted as a woman with blue skin, and her body covered with stars, standing on all fours, leaning over her husband Geb, representing the sky arched over the earth.

Osiris- the god of the dead, and the god of the resurrection into eternal life; ruler, protector, and judge of the deceased, Osiris was the first child of Nut and Geb, thus the brother of Set, Nephthys, and Isis, who was also his wife. By Isis he fathered Horus, and according to some stories, Nephthys assumed the form of Isis, seduced him thus, and from their union was born Anubis.Being the first person to die, he subsequently became lord of the dead.

Ra - the god of the sun; the name is thought to have meant "creative power", and as a proper name "Creator", similar to English Christian usage of the term "Creator" to signify the "almighty God."Very early in Egyptian history, Ra was identified with Horus, who as a hawk or falon-god represented the loftiness of the skies. Ra is represented either as a hawk-headed man or as a hawk.In order to travel through the waters of Heaven and the Underworld, Ra was also depicted as traveling in a boat.

ancient egypt gods



Sekhmet- A lioness goddess, created by Ra from the fire of his eyes as a creature of vengeance to punish mankind for his sins.

Selket- A scorpion-goddess, shown as a beautiful woman with a scorpion poised on her head; her creature struck death to the wicked, she was also petitioned to save the lives of innocent people stung by scorpions and was also viewed as a helper of women in childbirth, she is depicted as binding up demons that would otherwise threaten Ra, and she sent seven of her scorpions to protect Isis from Set, she protected Qebehsenuef, the son of Horus who guarded the intestines of the deceased, she was made famous by her statue from Tutankhamen's tomb, which was part of the collection which toured America in the 1970's.

Set- the patron deity of Lower (Northern) Egypt, and represented the fierce storms of the desert that the Lower Egyptians sought to appease.When Upper Egypt conquered Lower Egypt and ushered in the 1st Dynasty, Set became known as the evil enemy of Horus (Upper Egypt's dynastic god).Set is best known for murdering his brother and attempting to kill his nephew Horus.Horus, however, managed to survive and grew up to avenge his father's death by establishing his rule over all Egypt, castrating Set, and casting him out into the lonely desert for all time.

Sobek- the crocodile god, worshipped to appease him and his animals

Thoth-he god of wisdom, Thoth was said to be self-created at the beginning of time, along with his consort Ma'at (truth), depicted as a man with the head of an ibis bird, and carried a pen and scrolls upon which he recorded all things, he was shown as attendant in almost all major scenes involving the gods, but especially at the judgement of the deceased, he served as the messenger of the gods, and was thus equated by the Greeks with Hermes, he is a god of the moon, and is also the god of time, magic, and writing. He was considered the inventor of the hieroglyphs.