Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mystery of the Mouse Demon Solved

Figure 1 - an Ichneumon-headed Deity (on the right)
     I just got back from the American Research Center in Egypt conference which was held in Atlanta this year. There were some interesting papers presented and I will be covering some of what I heard in the next few posts. But the first thing I want to cover is a paper that solved a mystery I wrote about in a blog post a couple of years ago.

     I took the photo of the papyrus in figure 1 several years ago because I had no idea what the figure on the right is. At one of the talks (presented by Lisa Swart of Cumberland University), I found out the figure is an Ichneumon-headed god. So what on earth is an Ichneumon? It is a type of mongoose.

     An Ichneumon-headed deity is sometimes shown in Chapter 125 the Book of the Dead accompanying the deceased to the hall of judgment. He is referred to as “He who is the Head of the West” on one papyrus. This god’s iconography consists of:

  • The figure is male
  • He has a human body and the head of a mongoose
  • He usually holds a hand to his mouth (symbolizing the restoration of the power of speech to the deceased?)
  • Normally he is shown wearing both a kilt and a corselet
  • He does not wear a crown (although he does have the feather of Maat on his head in one case)


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