Ancient Egyptian Sexuality

Ancient Egyptian Sexuality
By Caroline Seawright

nk phallus Musicians and a dancer …Revel in pleasure while your life endures
And deck your head with myrrh. Be richly clad
In white and perfumed linen; like the gods
Anointed be; and never weary grow
In eager quest of what your heard desires –
Do as it prompts you…

— Lay of the Harpist

Sexuality in ancient Egypt was open, untainted by guilt. Sex was an important part of life – from birth to death and rebirth. Singles and married couples made love. The gods themselves were earthy enough to copulate. The Egyptians even believed in sex in the afterlife. Sex was not taboo… Even the Egyptian religion was filled with tales of adultery, incest, homosexuality and masturbation… with hints of necrophillia! Masculinity and femininity itself were strongly linked with the ability to conceive and bear children…

Marriage

To the ancient Egyptians, the most attractive women tended to be the fertile ones. A woman who had children was seen to be more fortunate than ones without. Taking after Isis, the mother goddess of Horus, Egyptian women strove to be intelligent, wise, mystical and mothers. Where her twin sister Nephthys was barren, Isis was fertile.

In the Egyptian community, men had to prove their masculinity by fathering children, while the women had to be able to bear these sons and daughters. Being a mother meant being able to keep her marriage secure and to gain a better position in society.

But an Egyptian family was not just a status symbol – the Egyptians loved their children and were not afraid to show it. But there were some advice to parents, written by scribes:

    Do not prefer one of your children above the others; after all, you never know which one of them will be kind to you.

Adultery in Egypt was wrong. Women got the worst punishment for adultery – a man might just be forced into a divorce, but a woman could conceivably be killed for that crime. In the Tale of Two Brothers, the adulterous wife was found out, murdered and her body was thrown to the dogs. Unmarried women, on the other hand, seem to be free to choose partners as they so desire, and enjoy their love life to its fullest.

Prostitutes advertised themselves through their clothing and make up. Some prostitutes wore blue faience beaded fish-net dresses, some of which is kept in the Weingreen Museum of Biblical Archaeology in Dublin. They painted their lips red, and tattooed themselves on the breasts or thighs and even went around totally nude.

Contraception

Offering made on a gigantic phallusThe Egyptians had their own ways and means of getting around the fact that sex produced children. They had both contraceptives and abortions, mostly these were prescriptions that were filled with unpleasant ingredients such as crocodile dung. Here is one of the nicer ones:

    Prescription to make a woman cease to become pregnant for one, two or three years: Grind together finely a measure of acacia dates with some honey. Moisten seed-wool with the mixture and insert it in the vagina. — Ebers Medical Papyrus

Incest Dogs copulating From the close family relationships in Egyptian mythology and the fact that Egyptians seemed to have no taboo against incest, many have concluded that incest was rife in ancient Egypt.

There were probably some brother and sister marriages, but more likely than not, the siblings in question would have been half-brothers and half-sisters. The problem arises from the limited Egyptian terms of kinship, which are very confusing. A ‘father’ could refer to the actual father, the grandfather or male ancestors, while ‘mother’ could be the same, but for the females of the family. ‘Sister’ could mean a lover, a wife, a mistress or concubine, niece or aunt!

The royal family, on the other hand, did have more incestuous marriages. The royal blood ran through the females, not the males. To become pharaoh, a man had to marry a royal princess… which would be his sister or half-sister.

    The prevalence of brother-sister marriages within the New Kingdom royal family, a custom in obvious contrast to contemporary non-royal marriage patters, appears to have been an attempt to reinforce the links between the royal family and the gods who themselves frequently indulged in brother-sister unions.

Ra Even the gods had sex in ancient Egypt. Ra (in the form of Atum) masturbated his children Shu and Tefnut into existence!

    Atum is he who masturbated in On. He took his phallus in his grasp that he might create orgasm by means of it, and so were born the twins Shu and Tefnut. — Pyramid Text 1248-49

Nut and Geb Nut raised above GebNut, the goddess of the night sky, and her brother Geb, the god of the earth, were originally thought to be in a constant state of love making. Ra grew angry with his grandchildren, and commanded their father Shu to separate the two lovers. The god of the air took his place, and trampled on the ithyphallic Geb, and lifted Nut high into the air. Nut was found to be pregnant, and was then cursed by Ra – she would never be able to bear her children on any month of the 360 day year. Thoth managed to win a game against Khonsu, god of the moon, and used some of the light of the moon to create five extra days (making the year 365 days). During those days Nut gave birth to her five children – Isis, Osiris, Nephthys, Set and Horus the Elder (not to be confused with Horus, the child of Isis and Osiris).

Nephthys and Osiris

Some tales of sex and the Egyptian gods is on the seamier side – one of the reasons given as to why Set and Osiris hate each other was because of Nephthys, Set’s sister-wife. She was barren (she represented the desert, as did Set), and she hit on the plan of disguising herself as Isis and seducing Osiris. Getting Osiris drunk, Nephthys took Osiris to her bed, and the two had drunken sex together. Osiris dropped his garland of melilot flowers in the act of passion. Set found the adulterous goddess and the flowers, and knowing who the flowers belonged to, he began to plan Osiris’ death. The child of this union was thought to be Anubis, god of mummification. The stereotypical Egyptian image of a fertile woman

    Now as the overflowings of the Nile are sometimes very great, and extend to the boundaries of the land, this gave rise to the story of the secret intercourse between Osiris and Nephthys, as the natural consequence of so great an inundation would be the springing up of plants in those parts of the country which were formerly barren.

Isis and Osiris After his first attempt, Set managed to kill Osiris again and cut up his body into numerous parts. These parts Set spread all over Egypt. Isis, Nephthys and Anubis searched Egypt, and managed to retrieve all of the pieces of the body, except one – Osiris’ phallus. Set had dropped the penis into the Nile (making it fertile), where it was eaten by a fish. The god and goddesses pieced Osiris together and created the first mummy. Using her magic, Isis fashioned a replacement for Osiris’ missing part, either out of clay, wood or gold, and attached this to her dead husband’s body. Through magical spells, life was breathed back into Osiris’ body (though some dispute this and believe that Osiris was dead at the time)… The goddess managed to share a time of passion with her husband who impregnating her with their child, Horus. Osiris then passed into the afterlife, becoming god of the dead.

Horus and Set

    Then Set said to Horus: “Come, let us have a feast day at my house.” And Horus said to him: “I will, I will.” Now when evening had come, a bed was prepared for them, and they lay down together. At night, Set let his member become stuff, and he inserted it between the thighs of Horus. And Horus placed his hand between his thighs and caught the semen of Set.— Story of Horus and Set

Two men embracing After Osiris’ eventual death, while Horus was growing up and planning his own revenge, Set and Horus engaged in a homosexual relationship. In one part of the myth, Set proclaimed to Horus, “How lovely your backside is.” Informing his mother Isis about his uncle’s ardour, Horus is told to catch Set’s semen rather than becoming impregnated by the murderer of his father. Set, in doing so, was planning on humiliating Horus by showing the gods that Horus would be filled with someone else’s semen.Horus and Isis’s next plan was to ‘impregnate’ Set with Horus’ semen. His mother spreads powerful unguents on Horus’ penis, after which he ejaculated into a jar, and they spread it on some lettuce, a favourite aphrodisiac to the ancient Egyptians. Set then eats the semen-covered lettuce, and so Horus (rather than Set with his first ‘attack’) becomes sexually dominant over his uncle. Set then asked the gods to bring the semen forth from the ‘impregnated’ one, to humiliate Osiris’ son. The semen comes out of Set himself, and he becomes the laughing stock of the gods!

Hapi

Hapi, Nile god with breasts The Egyptian god if the Nile, Hapi, was a masculine deity, given female properties because of the fertility of the Nile river. Without the Nile, there would be no Egypt. Due to the duality of Egyptian thought, there were two Hapi gods – one of Upper Egypt wearing the lotus on his head, and one of Lower Egypt wearing papyrus. He was usually depicted as a blue or green coloured man with a protuding belly, carrying libation jugs. He also has full breasts, indicating his ability to nourish Egypt. Despite being a hermaphrodite god, both Hapis were given wives – Nekhebet in Upper Egypt and Uatchet in Lower Egypt.

Min

Ithyphallic Min holding a flail Lettuce was thought to be the favourite food of the fertility god, Min. He was depicted as a god with an erect penis, wearing a feathered crown and carrying a flail. Lettuce was his sacred plant, and an aphrodisiac to the ancient Egyptians – this particular species of lettuce was tall, straight and secreted a milky substance when pressed!

Another aphrodisiac was the onion. They were forbidden to the priests who had vowed celibacy, for fear that their passion might take over, and that they might desecrate themselves!

Fennel, ginger, pomegranates, coriander in wine and radishes mixed with honey were thought to have aphrodisiac qualities, too.

The Lotus was also a symbol of sexuality, as well as immortality and health. It was possibly even a narcotic that the Egyptians used, but it was more likely to be a sexual stimulant.

Some of the more unusual aphrodisiacs included pearls dissolved in a cup of wine, baboon faces added to aphrodisiac ointments!

Artwork

Is this meant to be Senmut and Hatshepsut doing it doggy style? The Turin Papyrus contains various pictures of sexual activity, perhaps focused on Ramses II and his many wives, or maybe depicting an ancient Egyptian brothel. It has been theorised that, more likely, it is just the fantasies of an ancient Egyptian who happened to sketch them out on papyrus. Most of the positions drawn on this papyrus seem to be rather uncomfortable!

Another sexual sketch – this time graffiti – from ancient Egypt shows a woman with a pharaoh’s crown, maybe Hatshepsut engaging in sex with a male that many presume to be Senmut. This sketch has caused many people to believe that Hatshepsut and her favourite courtier were lovers.

From various sources, it seems that the Egyptian preferred method of intercourse were face-to-face or from behind.

After Life

An ancient paddle doll The Egyptians thought of their afterlives as more of a continuation of life on earth (albeit a better life). This being the case, the Egyptians believed in sex life after death!

Egyptian men had false penises attached to their mummies while Egyptian women had artificial nipples attached. Both would become fully functional in the afterlife, where they were free to engage in sexual intercourse, if they so desired.

There were even fertility dolls in many graves – women with wide, child-bearing hips that were often carrying children in their arms. Other fertility dolls, known as paddle dolls, don’t have any legs, and their bodies end in very wide pubic area, with tiny heads and arms.

These dolls show that the Egyptians believed that fertility and sex were interlinked, though the ancient Egyptians quite clearly enjoyed sex in its own right!

Babylonian Gods and Goddesses

  • from: http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/egypt/a/babygodsindex.htm#marduk

Ancient Egypt Fashions

Their fashions of mourning and of burial are these:Whenever any household has lost a man who is of any regard amongst them, the whole number of women of that house forthwith plaster over their heads or even their faces with mud.

Then leaving the corpse within the house they go themselves to and fro about the city and beat themselves, with their garments bound up by a girdle and their breasts
exposed, and with them go all the women who are related to the dead man, and on the other side the men beat themselves, they too having their garments bound up by a girdle; and when they have done this, they then convey the body to the embalming. In this occupation certain persons employ themselves regularly and inherit this as a craft. These, whenever a corpse is conveyed to them, show to those who brought it wooden models of corpses made like reality by painting, and the best of the ways of embalming they say is that of him whose name I think it impiety to mention when speaking of a matter of such a kind; the second whichthey show is less good than this and also less expensive; and the third is the least expensive of all.

Having told them about this, they inquire of them in which way they desire the corpse of their friend to be prepared. Then they after they have agreed for a certain price depart out of the way, and the others being left behind in the buildings embalm according to the best of these ways thus:First with the crooked iron tool they draw out the brain through the nostrils, extracting it partly thus and partly by pouring in drugs; and after this with a sharp stone of Ethiopia they make a cut along the side and take out the whole contents of the belly, and when they have cleared out the cavity and cleansed it with palm-wine they cleanse it again with spices pounded up: then they fill the belly with pure myrrh pounded up and with cassia and other spices except frankincense, and sew it together again. Having so done they keep it for embalming covered up in natron for seventy days, but for a longer time than this it is not permitted to embalm it; and when the seventy days are past, they wash the corpse and roll its whole body up in fine linen cut into bands, smearing these beneath with gum, which the Egyptians use generally instead of glue. Then the kinsfolk receive it from them and have a wooden figure made in the shape of man, and when they have had this made they enclose the corpse, and having shut it up within, they store it then in a sepulchral chamber, setting it to stand upright against the wall.

Thus they deal with the corpses which are prepared in the most costly way; but for those who desire the middle way and wish to avoid great cost they prepare the corpse as follows:having filled their syringes with the oil which is got from cedar-wood, with this they forthwith fill the belly of the corpse, and this they do without having either cut it open or taken out the bowels, but they inject the oil by the breech, and having stopped the drench from returning back they keep it then the appointed number of days for embalming, and on the last of the days they let the cedar oil come out from the belly, which they before put in; and it has such power that it brings out with
it the bowels and interior organs of the body dissolved; and the natron dissolves the flesh, so that there is left of the corpse only the skin and the bones.

When they have done this they give back the corpse at once in that ondition without working upon it any more. The third kind of embalming, by which are prepared the bodies of those who have less means, is as follows:they cleanse out the belly with a purge and then keep the body for embalming during he seventy days, and at once after that they give it back to the bringers to carry away.

The wives of men of rank when they die are not given at once to be mbalmed, nor such women as are very beautiful or of greater regard than others, but on the third or fourth day after their death (and not before) they are delivered to the embalmers.

They do so about this matter in order that the embalmers may not abuse their women, for they say that one of them was taken once doing so to the corpse of a woman lately dead, and his fellow-craftsman gave information. Whenever any one, either of the Egyptians themselves or of strangers, is found to have been carried off by a crocodile or brought to his death by the river itself, the people of any city by which he may have been cast up on land must embalm him and lay him out in the fairest way they can and bury him in a sacred burial-place, nor may any of his relations or friends besides touch him, but the priests of the Nile themselves handle the corpse and bury it as that of one who was something more than man.

The Great Pyramid, Egypt

Giza pyramids of Cairo, Egypt
Giza pyramids soaring above the city of Cairo, Egypt
(Order Fine Art Print)

The Great Pyramid is the most substantial ancient structure in the world – and the most mysterious. According to prevailing archaeological theory – and there is absolutely no evidence to confirm this idea – the three pyramids on the Giza plateau are funerary structures of three kings of the fourth dynasty (2575 to 2465 BC). The Great Pyramid, attributed to Khufu (Cheops) is on the right of the photograph, the pyramid attributed to Khafra (Chephren) next to it, and that of Menkaura (Mycerinus) the smallest of the three. The Great Pyramid was originally 481 feet, five inches tall (146.7 meters) and measured 755 feet (230 meters) along its sides. Covering an area of 13 acres, or 53,000 square meters, it is large enough to contain the European cathedrals of Florence, Milan, St. Peters, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s. Constructed from approximately 2.5 million limestone blocks weighing on average 2.6 tons each, its total mass is more than 6.3 million tons (representing more building material than is to be found in all the churches and cathedrals built in England since the time of Christ). The Great Pyramid was originally encased in highly polished, smooth white limestone and capped, according to legend, by a perfect pyramid of black stone, probably onyx. Covering an area of 22 acres the white limestone casing was removed by an Arab sultan in AD 1356 in order to build mosques and fortresses in nearby Cairo. Herodotus, the great Greek geographer, visited in the fifth century BC. Strabo, a Greco / Roman historian, came in the first century AD. Abdullah Al Mamun, son of the Caliph of Baghdad, forced the first historically recorded entrance in AD 820, and Napoleon was spellbound when he beheld the fantastic structure in 1798.

According to our present knowledge the Great Pyramid is mostly solid mass, it’s only known interior spaces being the Descending passage (the original entrance), the Ascending passage, the Grand Gallery, a mysterious grotto, an equally mysterious subterranean chamber, and the two main chambers. These two chambers, called the King’s Chamber and the Queen’s Chamber, have unfortunately retained the misleading names given to them by early Arab visitors to the pyramid. It is an Arab custom to bury men in tombs with a flat roof and women in rooms with a gabled roof; therefore, in the Great Pyramid, the flat-roofed granite chamber became the King’s Chamber, while the gabled, limestone chamber below became the Queen’s. Even those archaeologists who still stubbornly subscribe to the tomb theory of the pyramid do not believe that a queen or anyone else was ever buried in the limestone chamber. The King’s Chamber is 10.46 meters east to west by 5.23 meters north to south by 5.81 meters high (a series of measurements that precisely expresses the mathematical proportion known as the Golden Mean, or Phi). It is built of enormous blocks of solid red granite (weighing as much as 50 tons) that were transported by a still-unknown means from the quarries of Aswan 600 miles to the south. Within the chamber, in the western end, sits a large, lidless coffer (7.5 feet by 3.25 feet, with sides averaging 6.5 inches thick) of dark black granite estimated to weigh more than three tons. When the Arab Abdullah Al Mamun finally forced his entry into the chamber in AD 820 – the first entry since the chamber was sealed in some long ago time – he found the coffer entirely empty. Egyptologists assume that this was the final resting place of Khufu, yet not the slightest evidence suggests that a corpse had ever been in this coffer or chamber. Nor have any embalming materials, any fragments of any article, or any clues whatsoever been found in the chamber or anywhere else in the entire pyramid that in any way indicates that Khufu (or anyone else) was ever buried there. Furthermore, the passageway leading from the Grand Gallery to the main chamber is too narrow to admit the movement of the coffer; the coffer must have been placed in the chamber as the pyramid was being built, contrary to the normal burial custom practiced by the Egyptians for three thousand years.

The foolishness of the common assumption, that the Giza plateau pyramids were built and utilized by fourth Dynasty kings as funerary structures, cannot be overstated. It is a matter of archaeological fact that none of the fourth Dynasty kings put their names on the pyramids supposedly constructed in their times, yet from the fifth Dynasty onwards, the other pyramids had hundreds of official inscriptions, leaving us no doubt about which kings built them. The mathematical complexity, engineering requirements, and sheer size of the Giza plateau pyramids represent an enormous, seemingly impossible leap in abilities over the third dynasty buildings. Contemporary Egyptological explanation cannot account for this leap, nor can they account for the clear decline in mathematics, engineering and size of the constructions of the fifth dynasty. Textbooks speak of “religious upheaval” and “civil wars,” but there is no evidence whatsoever of these having occurred.

The attribution to Khufu of the Great Pyramid is founded solely upon three very circumstantial pieces of “evidence”:

  • The legends told to and reported by Herodotus who visited the pyramids in 443 BC
  • The funerary complex near the Great Pyramid with inscriptions citing Cheops/Khufu as
    the reigning pharaoh
  • In the pyramid itself, on a granite slab above the ceiling of the main chamber, some
    small, red ochre paint marks that have a slight resemblance to a hieroglyphic symbol for
    the name of Khufu.

Pharaoh Khufu himself left no indication whatsoever that he built the Great Pyramid. He did, however, claim to have done repair work on the structure. On the nearby “Inventory” Stele (dating to about 1500 BC, but showing evidence of having been copied from a far older stele contemporaneous with the fourth dynasty), Khufu tells of discoveries made while clearing away the sands from the pyramid, of his dedication of the monument to Isis, and of his building of the three small pyramids for himself, his wife, and his daughters next to the Great Pyramid. Regarding the red ochre paint marks found within the pyramid, most hieroglyph experts now believe these to be forgeries left by their “discoverer” Richard Howard-Vyse, rather than being quarry inscriptions left by the original builders. Howard-Vyse was under pressure to equal the discoveries of his rival, the Italian explorer Caviglia, who had found inscriptions in some of the tombs around the Great Pyramid. Modern researchers now suspect that, in the battle for one-upmanship, Howard-Vyse sought to overshadow his rival and gain renewed support for his own projects with a similar but more spectacular “discovery”, by forging quarry inscriptions inside the Great Pyramid. In other words, no firm evidence in any way connects the pyramids of the Giza plateau to the dynastic Egyptians.

Let us briefly consider a few matters concerning the construction of the Great Pyramid; matters which clearly indicate that the builders of fourth dynasty Egypt did not have the engineering capacity to erect the Great Pyramid (we do not have the capacity even today) and that this structure was used for a purpose altogether different from mere burial.

The Great Pyramid is constructed with approximately 2,300,000 limestone and granite blocks. Weighing between 2.5 and 50 tons each, these stone blocks had to be quarried from the earth. Herein lays our first unsolved problem. In the Cairo museum one can see several examples of simple copper and bronze saws, which Egyptologists claim are like those utilized in the cutting and shaping of the pyramid blocks. These tools present a problem. On the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, copper and bronze have a hardness of 3.5 to 4, while limestone has a hardness of 4 to 5 and granite of 5 to 6. The known tools would only barely cut through limestone and would be useless with granite. No archaeological examples of iron tools are found in early dynastic Egypt, yet even if they were, the best steels today have a hardness of only 5.5 and thus are inefficient for cutting granite. Some years ago Sir Flinders Petrie, one of the “fathers” of Egyptology proposed that the pyramid blocks had been cut with long saw blades studded with diamonds or corundum. But this idea presents problems too. The cutting of millions of blocks would require millions of rare and expensive diamonds and corundum, which constantly wear out and require replacement. It has been suggested that the limestone blocks were somehow cut with solutions of citric acid or vinegar, yet these very slow-acting agents leave the surface of the limestone pitted and rough, unlike the beautifully smooth surface found on the casing stones, and these agents are completely useless for the cutting of granite. The truth is, we have no idea how the blocks were actually quarried.

The unsolved problem of how the 2,300,000 very heavy blocks were transported to the building site of the pyramid is even more mystifying. How were the blocks taken to the nearly 500- foot height of the pyramid’s summit? A Danish civil engineer, P. Garde-Hanson, has calculated that a ramp built all the way to the top of the pyramid would require 17.5 million cubic meters of material, this representing more than seven times the amount of material used for the pyramid itself, and a work force of 240,000 to build it in the time allotted by Cheops’ reign. But if this enormous ramp were built, it would then require a force of more than 300,000 laborers as much as eight years to dismantle. Where would all the ramp material have been placed, since it is not to be found anywhere near the Great Pyramid? And what of maneuvering the precisely carved blocks into place without damaging the corners? Various lifting devices and levers have been proposed by modern engineers (remember, no existing dynastic records, paintings, or friezes give any clue to this mystery), but none solve the problem of how the 50-ton blocks of the main chamber were lifted and positioned using an area where only four to six workers could stand, when the strength of at least 2000 would be needed.

Next we come to perhaps the most extraordinary problem, that of the fashioning and placement of the highly polished limestone casing stones that covered the entire pyramid. The finished pyramid contained approximately 115,000 of these stones, each weighing ten tons or more. These stones were dressed on all six of their sides, not just the side exposed to the visible surface, to tolerances of .01 inch. They are set together so closely that a thin razor blade cannot be inserted between the stones. Egyptologist Petrie expressed his astonishment of this feat by writing, “Merely to place such stones in exact contact would be careful work, but to do so with cement in the joint seems almost impossible; it is to be compared to the finest opticians’ work on the scale of acres.” Herodotus, visiting in the fifth century BC, reported that inscriptions of strange characters were to be found on the pyramid’s casing stones. In AD 1179 the Arab historian Abd el Latif recorded that these inscriptions were so numerous that they could have filled “more than ten thousand written pages.” William of Baldensal, a European visitor of the early fourteenth century, tells how the stones were covered with strange symbols arranged in careful rows. Sadly, in 1356, following an earthquake that leveled Cairo, the Arabs robbed the pyramid of its beautiful casing of stones to rebuild mosques and fortresses in the city. As the stones were cut into smaller pieces and reshaped, all traces of the ancient inscriptions were removed from them. A great library of ageless wisdom was forever lost.

Still further evidence that the dynastic Egyptians did not construct the Great Pyramid may be found in sediments surrounding the base of the monument, in legends regarding watermarks on the stones halfway up its sides, and in salt incrustations found within. Silt sediments rising to fourteen feet around the base of the pyramid contain many seashells and fossils that have been radiocarbon-dated to be nearly twelve thousand years old. These sediments could have been deposited in such great quantities only by major sea flooding, an event the dynastic Egyptians could never have recorded because they were not living in the area until eight thousand years after the flood. This evidence alone suggests that the three main Giza pyramids are at least twelve thousand years old. In support of this ancient flood scenario, mysterious legends and records tell of watermarks that were clearly visible on the limestone casing stones of the Great Pyramid before those stones were removed by the Arabs. These watermarks were halfway up the sides of the pyramid, or about 400 feet above the present level of the Nile River. Further, when the Great Pyramid was first opened, incrustations of salt an inch thick were found inside. While much of this salt is known to be natural exudation from the stones of the pyramid, chemical analysis has shown that some of the salt has a mineral content consistent with salt from the sea. These salt incrustations, found at a height corresponding to the water level marks left on the exterior, are further evidence that at some time in the distant past the pyramid was submerged halfway up its height.

Let us turn our attention briefly to the matter of the purpose or multiple purposes of the Great Pyramid, drawing for our discussion on both the exact measurements made by modern scientists and the mythic legends of the remote past. A few facts:

  • The sides of the pyramid are lined up almost exactly with the cardinal points of the compass. The accuracy of this alignment is extraordinary, with an average discrepancy of only about three minutes of arc in any direction or a variation of less than 0.06 percent.
  • The Great Pyramid functioned as an enormous sundial. Its shadow to the north, and its reflected sunlight to the south, accurately marked the annual dates of both the solstices and the equinoxes.
  • The basic dimensions of the Great Pyramid incorporate measurements from which the earth’s size and shape can be calculated. The pyramid is a scale model of the hemisphere, incorporating the geographical degrees of latitude and longitude. The latitude and longitude lines that intersect at the Great Pyramid (30 degrees north and 31 degrees east) cross more of the earth’s land surface than any other lines, thus the pyramid is located at the center of the land mass of the earth (the pyramid is built on the closest suitable site to this intersection). The original perimeter of the pyramid equals exactly one-half minute of latitude at the equator, indicating that its builders measured the earth with extreme precision and recorded this information in the dimensions of the structure. Altogether these measurements show that the builders knew the exact dimensions of the planet as precisely as they have been recently determined by satellite surveys.
  • The foundation of the Great Pyramid is amazingly level., No corner of its base is more than one-half inch higher or lower than the others. Considering that the pyramid’s base covers more than thirteen acres, this near-perfect leveling far exceeds even the finest architectural standards of the present day.
  • Measurements throughout the pyramid show that its constructors knew of the proportions of pi (3.14…), phi or the Golden Mean (1.618), and the “Pythagorean” triangles thousands of years before Pythagoras, the so-called father of geometry, lived.
  • Measurements show that the builders knew the precise spherical shape and size of the earth and had accurately charted such complex astronomical events as the precession of the equinoxes and the lunar standstill dates. The minute discrepancies of the lengths of the base of the pyramid (several inches over the 230 meter length of its base) reveal not an error on the part of the builders but an ingenious means of incorporating into the pyramid the “discrepancies” of the earth itself, in this case the flattening of the earth’s globe at the poles.
  • Shafts leading upward from the two main chambers, previously thought to be air shafts for ventilation, have been shown to have another possible purpose. A miniature electronic robot mechanically crawled sixty-five meters up the shafts and its findings suggested that the south and north shafts in the Kings Chamber are pointed to Al Nitak (Zeta Orionis) and Alpha Draconis respectively, while the south and north shafts of the Queens Chamber point to Sirius and Beta Ursa Minor. The scientists conducting this research believe that the layout of the three pyramids on the Giza plateau precisely mirror the position of the three main stars in the Orion constellation. (While crawling along one of the shafts in the Queens chamber, the robot’s cameras photographed a previously unknown closed door that may lead to some hidden chamber.) Readers interested in these new findings should consult The Orion Mystery by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert.

What does all this mean? Why did the ancient builders of the Giza pyramids, whoever they may have been, encode so much precise mathematical, geographic, and astronomical information into their structures? What was the purpose of the Great Pyramid? While no authoritative answer can presently be given to this question, two intriguing matters suggest a direction for further inquiry and research. The first has to do with the persistent legends that the Great Pyramid, and especially the main chamber, was used as some sort of sacred initiation center. According to one legend, students who had first undergone long years of preparation, meditation and metaphysical instruction in an esoteric school (the mythic “Hall of Records” hidden deep beneath the desert sands somewhere near the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx) were placed in the granite coffer of the main chamber and left alone throughout an entire night. The coffer was the focal point of the energies gathered, concentrated, aimed, and directed at the main chamber by virtue of the precise mathematical location, alignment, and construction of the pyramid. These energies, considered to be especially potent at certain precisely calculated periods when the earth was in a particular geometric alignment with solar, lunar, and stellar objects, were conducive to the awakening, stimulation, and acceleration of spiritual consciousness in the suitably prepared adept. While it is now nearly impossible to spend an evening alone in the coffer of the main chamber, it is interesting to read the reports of those persons who have done so in the past. Mention will be made of experiences both terribly frightening (perhaps because of the lack of any appropriate training on the part of the experimenter) and also deeply peaceful, even spiritually illuminating. Napoleon himself spent a night alone in the chamber. Emerging pale and dazed, he would not speak of his powerful experiences, only saying, “You would not believe me if I told you.”

A second matter needing further inquiry from the scientific community studying the Great Pyramid – and one that might help explain the subject just discussed – concerns the matter of unexplained energetic anomalies frequently noticed and recorded in the main chamber. In the 1920s, a Frenchman named Antoine Bovis made the surprising discovery that, despite the heat and high humidity of the main chamber, the dead bodies of animals left in the chamber did not decay but completely dehydrated. Thinking that there might be some relationship between this phenomena and the position of the main chamber in the pyramid, Bovis constructed a small-scale model of the pyramid, oriented it to the same direction as the Great Pyramid, and placed the body of a dead cat at the approximate level of the main chamber. The result was the same. As he had observed in the Great Pyramid, the cat’s body did not decay. In the 1960s, researchers in Czechoslovakia and the U.S., conducting limited studies of the geometry of the pyramid, repeated this experiment with the same results. They also found that the form of the pyramid somehow mysteriously kept foods preserved without spoiling, sharpened dull razor blades, induced plants to germinate and grow more quickly, and hastened the healing of animals’ wounds. Other scientists, in consideration of the high quartz content of the granite blocks in the main chamber and the incredible pressures those blocks are subjected to, theorized that the main chamber may have been the focal point of a powerful piezoelectric field; magnetometer measurements inside the chamber indeed showed higher levels than the normal background geomagnetic field.

Although much research remains to be done in these areas, legend, archaeology, mathematics, and earth sciences seem to indicate that the Great Pyramid was a monumental device for gathering, amplifying, and focusing a mysterious energy field for the spiritual benefit of human beings. We do not know exactly how the pyramid and its main chamber were used, and the geometric structure of the pyramid has been subtly altered by the removal of the casing stones and the cap-stone. None-the-less, the Great Pyramid of the Giza plateau still emanates great power as a transformational power place. It has done so for uncounted thousands of years and seems destined to continue for ages to come.

Giza Pyramids after sunset
Giza Pyramids after sunset, Egypt

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Great Pyramid, Giza
The building blocks of the Great Pyramid, Giza

Isis, Egyptian Goddess of Magic and Giver of Life

Isis, Egyptian Goddess

of  Magic and Giver of Life

Isis, the Egyptian goddess of rebirth remains one of the most familiar images of empowered and utter femininity. The goddess Isis was the first daughter of Geb, god of the Earth, and Nut, the goddess of the Overarching Sky. Isis was born on the first day between the first years of creation, and was adored by her human followers.

Unlike the other Egyptian goddesses, the goddess Isis spent time among her people, teaching women how to grind corn and make bread, spin flax and weave cloth, and how to tame men enough to live with them (an art form on which many of us would welcome a refresher course!)

Isis taught her people the skills of reading and agriculture and was worshipped as the goddess of medicine and wisdom.

Isis

More than any other of the ancient Egyptian goddesses, Isis embodied the characteristics of all the lesser goddesses that preceded her. Isis became the model on which future generations of female deities in other cultures were to be based.

As the personification of the “complete female”, Isis was called “The One Who Is All”, Isis Panthea (“Isis the All Goddess”), and the “Lady of Ten Thousand Names”.

The goddess Isis, a moon goddess, gave birth to Horus, the god of the sun. Together, Isis and Horus created and sustained all life and were the saviors of their people.

Isis

Isis became the most powerful of the gods and goddesses in the ancient world. Ra, the God of the Sun, originally had the greatest power. But Ra was uncaring, and the people of the world suffered greatly during his reign.

The goddess Isis tricked him by mixing some of his saliva with mud to create a poisonous snake that bit him, causing him great suffering which she then offered to cure. He eventually agreed.

Isis informed Ra that, for the cure to work, she would have to speak his secret name (which was the source of his power over life and death). Reluctantly, he whispered it to her.

When Isis uttered his secret name while performing her magic, Ra was healed. But the goddess Isis then possessed his powers of life and death, and quickly became the most powerful of the Egyptian gods and goddesses, using her great powers to the benefit of the people.

Isis


Isis was called the Mother of Life, but she was also known as the Crone of Death. Her immense powers earned her the titles of “The Giver of Life” and “Goddess of Magic”. Her best known story illustrates why she is simultaneously known as a creation goddess and a goddess of destruction.

Isis was the Goddess of the Earth in ancient Egypt and loved her brother Osiris. When they married, Osiris became the first King of Earth. Their brother Set, immensely jealous of their powers, murdered Osiris so he could usurp the throne.

Set did this by tricking Osiris into stepping into a beautiful box made of cedar, ebony and ivory that he had ordered built to fit only Osiris. Set then sealed it up to become a coffin and threw it into the river. The river carried the box out to sea; it washed up in another country, resting in the upper boughs of a tamarisk tree when the waters receded.

As time passed, the branches covered the box, encapsulating the god in his coffin in the trunk of the tree.

In a state of inconsolable grief, Isis tore her robes to shreds and cut off her beautiful black hair. When she finally regained her emotional balance, Isis set out to search for the body of her beloved Osiris so that she might bury him properly.


Isis

The search took Isis to Phoenicia where she met Queen Astarte. Astarte didn’t recognize the goddess and hired her as a nursemaid to the infant prince.

Fond of the young boy, Isis decided to bestow immortality on him. As she was holding the royal infant over the fire as part of the ritual, the Queen entered the room. Seeing her son smoldering in the middle of the fire, Astarte instinctively (but naively) grabbed the child out of the flames, undoing the magic of Isis that would have made her son a god.

When the Queen demanded an explanation, Isis revealed her identity and told Astarte of her quest to recover her husband’s body. As she listened to the story, Astarte realized that the body was hidden in the fragrant tree in the center of the palace and told Isis where to find it.

Sheltering his broken body in her arms, the goddess Isis carried the body of Osiris back to Egypt for proper burial. There she hid it in the swamps on the delta of the Nile river.

Isis

Unfortunately, Set came across the box one night when he was out hunting. Infuriated by this turn of events and determined not to be outdone, he murdered Osiris once again . . . this time hacking his body into 14 pieces and throwing them in different directions knowing that they would be eaten by the crocodiles.

The goddess Isis searched and searched, accompanied by seven scorpions who assisted and protected her. Each time she found new pieces she rejoined them to re-form his body.

But Isis could only recover thirteen of the pieces. The fourteenth, his penis, had been swallowed by a crab, so she fashioned one from gold and wax. Then inventing the rites of embalming, and speaking some words of magic, Isis brought her husband back to life.

Magically, Isis then conceived a child with Osiris, and gave birth to Horus, who later became the Sun God. Assured that having the infant would now relieve Isis’ grief, Osiris was free to descend to become the King of the Underworld, ruling over the dead and the sleeping.

His spirit, however, frequently returned to be with Isis and the young Horus who both remained under his watchful and loving eye.

Isis

There are many other variations of this myth . . . in some Isis found the body of Osiris in Byblos, fashioned his penis out of clay. In others the goddess consumed the dismembered parts she found and brought Osiris back to life, reincarnating him as her son Horus.

In one of the most beautiful renditions, Isis turns into a sparrowhawk and hovers over the body of Osiris, fanning life back into him with her long wings.

Regardless of the differences, each version speaks of the power over life and death that the goddess Isis symbolizes. . . the deep mysteries of the feminine ability to create and to bring life from that which is lifeless.

To this day the celebration of the flooding of the Nile each year is called “The Night of the Drop” by Muslims. . . for it used to be named “The Night of the Tear-Drop” a remembrance of the extent of the Isis’ lamentation of the death of Osiris, her tears so plentiful they caused the Nile to overflow.

Isis


The Egyptian goddess Isis played an important role in the development of modern religions, although her influence has been largely forgotten.

She was worshipped throughout the Greco-Roman world. During the fourth century when Christianity was making its foothold in the Roman Empire, her worshippers founded the first Madonna cults in order to keep her influence alive.

Some early Christians even called themselves Pastophori, meaning the shepherds or servants of Isis. . . which may be where the word “pastors” originated. The influence of Isis is still seen in the Christian ikons of the faithful wife and loving mother.

Indeed, the ancient images of Isis nursing the infant Horus inspired the style of portraits of mother and child for centuries, including those of the “Madonna and Child” found in religious art.

The power of the goddess Isis in the “public arena” was also profound. Her role as a guide to the Underworld, was often portrayed with winged arms outstretched in a protective position. The image of the wings of Isis was incorporated into the Egyptian throne on which the pharaohs would sit, the wings of Isis protecting them.

Isis

The ancient Egyptian goddess Isis has many gifts to share with modern women. Isis embodies the strengths of the feminine, the capacity to feel deeply about relationships, the act of creation, and the source of sustenance and protection.

At times Isis could be a clever trickster empowered by her feminine wiles rather than her logic or brute strength, but it is also the goddess Isis who shows us how we can use our personal gifts to create the life we desire rather than simply opposing that which we do not like.

The myths of Isis and Osiris caution us about the need for occasional renewal and reconnection in our relationships. Isis also reminds us to acknowledge and accept the depths of our emotions.

Sumerian Art

The art of the Sumerian civilization, as revealed by excavations at Ur, Babylon, Uruk (Erech), Mari, Kish, and Lagash, among other cities, was one of enormous power and originality that influenced all of the major cultures of ancient western Asia. Their techniques and motifs were made widely available by means of cuneiform writing, which they invented before 3000 B.C. Poor in the raw materials of art, the Sumerians traded crops from their fertile soil for the metal, stone, and wood that they required. Clay was their most abundant native material, and its qualities determined their style of baked-mud building and the nature of their fine-textured pottery.

Sumerian craftsmanship was of marked excellence from very early times. A vase in alabaster from Erech (c.3500 B.C.; Iraq Mus., Baghdad) shows a detailed ceremonial procession of men and animals to the fertility goddess Inanna, carved in four bands on an elegant vase shape. A major peak of artistic achievement is represented by a female head, called Lady of Warka (Erech) from about 3200 B.C. (Iraq Mus.). It is carved in white marble with simplicity and subtlety.

The vast royal cemetery at Ur has yielded many masterpieces of Sumerian work. Outstanding among these are a wooden harp detailed with gold and mosaic inlay picturing mythological scenes on the soundbox, surmounted by a black-bearded golden head of a bull (c.2650 B.C.; Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia); a gaming board of wood inlaid with bone, lapis lazuli, shell, and stone, mounted in bitumen (c.2700 B.C.; British Mus.); a ritual offering stand in the shape of a ram, made of silver, lapis lazuli, and mussel shells, rearing on his hind legs to eat from a tree of gold; and a splendid gold helmet fashioned from a single sheet of metal and beaten into the form of a head of wavy hair with a chignon at the back (c.2500 B.C.; Baghdad).

At Lagash a strongly modeled head of stone (c.2500 B.C.) portrays a Sumerian man, clearly representing the structural type of these ancient people. Its large and widely spaced features set on a heavy round skull are revealed in bas-relief and inlay work of the period. Examples of the famous votive stone sculptures of Sumer discovered at Tell Asmar represent tall, long-haired, bearded figures with huge, staring eyes and long, pleated skirts, standing rigidly with hands folded above the waist. Some are portrayed kneeling.

The ziggurat temple form was the most striking architectural achievement of the Sumerians. One ziggurat at Erech extended over an area of half a million square feet (46,500 sq m). It was set upon a mound, and the platform built to support its crowning shrine was 40 feet (12 m) high.

Among other Sumerian arts, one of the most sophisticated was the cylinder seal, a small carved cylinder of stone or metal that, when rolled over seals of moist clay, would leave the reverse image of its carving in relief as an identifying mark or signature. Used to mark documents and property, the cylinders were worn on a wristband or necklace during their owners’ lifetime and were buried with them. A great many examples survive, bearing primarily scenes of religious ritual, often portraying the legendary hero Gilgamesh.

With the ascent to power of Sargon of Akkad, Sumerian art reached new heights of expression, particularly in sculpture. The greatest known examples reflecting that splendor include a bronze head thought to be a portrait of Sargon himself (from Nineveh, c.2300 B.C.; Iraq Mus., Baghdad), from which the gemstone eyes have been stolen, and the stele of Naram-sin, a triumphal relief showing the deified grandson of Sargon in battle (2261–24 B.C.; Louvre). The Akkadians spread cuneiform writing throughout the Middle East, and even after the destruction of Sargon’s empire by invasions from the east in the latter part of the 3d millennium B.C., Sumerian artistic techniques and styles exerted profound influence on contemporary and later cultures. The city of Lagash survived the invasions and was beautified by its governor Gudea with numerous works of art. These were carved of dark, hard diorite; many represented the dignified and serene seated figure of Gudea himself. Although most are small in stature, they convey a sense of grandeur and monumentality. After the invasions the glory of Sumer was revived from 2200 to 2100 B.C. During this period the great ziggurat of the moon god at Ur was built.

Invasions of Semitic peoples from what are now Iran and Syria ended the last Sumerian golden age. The site of Mari has yielded the most complete archaeological evidence of Sumerian civilization during that transitional time. The great Mari royal palace with its labyrinthine corridors, frescoed walls, royal residential rooms, courts and temple buildings, and scribal school containing more than 25,000 cuneiform tablets, reveal the brilliance of a vanished world.

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