Friday, May 4, 2018

Gods, Priests and Bald Men in the Book of the Dead - ARCE Annual Meeting Day 3

     On day 3 of the annual ARCE meeting Dr. Barbara Richter spoke about "Gods, Priests and Bald Men: a New Look at the Book of the Dead 103". Spell 103 is short and not well studied. Eighty-six copies of it are known from the New Kingdom through the Roman Period and pre-cursors of this spell appear in the Coffin Texts. The spell reads, "I am one who passes by, pure and bald. Ihy, Ihy, I am in the following of Hathor".

     For such a short spell, there are a number of meanings to the words, as Dr. Richter pointed out. First of all, Ihy is a minor Egyptian god. The word can also mean "a sistrum player" or "Ihy priest", or even "to make music". The god Ihy is shown wearing a sidelock at Dendera, which is his main cult center, as far back as the Fifth Dynasty. There is also a statue of Ihy in the Tomb of Tutankhamen (see: Carter, Howard. The Tomb of Tutankhamen, vol. 3, plate LVI; the statue is made of wood covered in black resin). Ihy priests are more commonly shown in the Ptolemaic Period, than the New Kingdom. There is also one interesting extra tidbit related to this, as pointed out in this talk. Some New Kingdom statues show a bald man, with just a fringe of hair, offering a sistrum.

     There are double meanings in other words in this short spell. "Ssh" means "to pass by" or "to open" and this spell is sometimes accompanied by a vignette showing a person opening a shrine with Hathor inside.

     A possible interpretation of this spell, according to Dr. Richter, is that it indicates the role of music in pacifying Hathor.

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