(Editor's note: This site is undergoing extensive re-write, in order to include recent archaeological discoveries along the Nile. As of August 28, 2018, chapters up to the Death of Osiris are new. Thank you for your patience.)
The ancient Egyptians created the first illustrated texts — images combined with words to communicate abstract themes and concepts. They understood and used metaphor as a primary literary and artistic form. What we see as superstitious mysticism is actually an orderly and rational system for defining categories of being and experience. Their terms translate into modern languages only as lengthy explanations of the definition, however, the many faces of the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses resolve into your human face. “Face and Head of my Heart.”
The ancient Egyptians used a lively, sophisticated and evolving system of mythological metaphors to maintain their unique cultural identity, a system which succeeded for millennia despite changes of politics and war. The essays posted here present these metaphors in detail, starting with their primary elements and the template from which they emerged. Egyptian conservatism and apparent stagnation are revealed here to be the ancient civilization’s most powerful survival tools as a civilization. The mystery of individual consciousness and the unique identity of the soul/self were players in an eternal inner-landscape.
The Egyptians understood that the human personality had universal aspects, those functions of living within a vessel of animal-flesh that are the basic tools of being human. Your life is powered by the harmonic interactions of these conscious and unconscious aspects, and Egyptians gave a voice to those unconscious portions of your being. “The Opening of the Mouth” was an important ritual, a phrase that also means “The Giving of a Voice.” The silent darkness within you is given a voice, a vote in the course of your life. That is the dialog between you and your unconscious self, the same dialog for everyone, no matter what words and images are used. Egyptians had a formal language for that dialog, a language once shared by everyone from pharaoh to farmer.
Their deep understanding of human nature was expressed in visual metaphors and literary terms that do seem deliberately mysterious to us, yet their names for the facets of individual personality were learned with mother’s milk and painted everywhere with exquisite skill by their finest artists. They were immersed in a mythology that guided the dialog between their conscious egos and their unconscious selves, a dialog that kept their culture and society intact throughout the changes of the world and other nations.
In that ancient view, we are met out here, “on top of the earth,” for the sake of being together. Pharaohs seldom stand alone. His Beloved stands close, her hand on his shoulder. In hunting scenes and in triumph, his comrades are around him. Husbands and wives and their children are seen touching in close groups in the eternal sitting-room of their tombs. The loneliness of death is countered with images of hands touching. The starry heaven bends close over your face in your coffin so that you and the night sky can whisper together. The gods look you in the eye. Conversation, friendship and the coherency of the personal group are everywhere in Egyptian art. Their literature is filled with dialog; the notes of their conversations abound. They wrote letters. Snippets of talk are painted into tomb art so that the conversation goes on uninterrupted by death. The gods speak to you in the lush poetic language of the tomb texts and images, and they fill you with awe in their temples. This art of dialog, of conversation among friends about the great issues of life, is the hallmark of Egyptian daily life.
This easy-to-read site is an excellent companion to Egyptian studies, as well as an unusual travel guide through the mind of ancient Egypt. You begin in the Garden of Osiris.
Site under construction. Updated AUGUST 2018