Susanllewellyn's Blog

August 19, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (16)

Today in the office, we were talking about green issues.  Today on office hieroglyphs, we’re recycling.  Spooky…

We’re recycling this hieroglyph in fact:


You recognised it instantly, didn’t you, from the very beginning of the offering formula, as the alternative way of writing: di064

transliteration di

di; give. 

To be fair, the beginning of the offering formula features the loaf or cake sign by itself.  The alternative form, the arm with the hand holding out the loaf, was still waiting backstage and lucky to be mentioned in the programme notes.  But now it has walked on stage, a star.  See:

di.f hieroglyphs   di.f transliteration

Di ef; so that he may give. (Don’t worry about the so that bit, it’s contained in the verb.  We’re not doing grammar, remember?)  When you’re drawing it, give the upper arm a bit of thickness, a single line will do for the forearm, and a little curve for the hand.  Then draw a triangle in the palm for the loaf.  Easy.

Almost as easy as drawing the cute little horned viper which you’ll have deduced stands for:

f hieroglyph  f transliteration

ef; he.  The dot just attaches the pronoun to the verb; it doesn’t have anything to do with the pronunciation of ef.  All you have to do when you draw a horned viper sign is start at the head, bring the stroke down his neck, give his back a wiggle and finish him off with a little tail, then do a v-shape on his head for the horns.

Horned vipers are not quite so cute in real life:


I like snakes, but I don’t think I’d want to tickle this one under the chin.  It looks as though it’s had an accident with the staple gun.  And something tells me he could do a lot worse than that thing where you end up with a staple in your thumb.  Nevertheless, it is wildlife and therefore ecological.  The hieroglyph, though:

painted f

Isn’t he lovely?  And even though he’s yellow, ecologically speaking he’s green.

August 18, 2009

Office hieroglyphs (15)

line 2

 line 2 transliteration

di ef peret-kheru (em) te henqet, kau apedu, shes menkhet

so that he may give an invocation-offering (consisting of) bread, beer, meat, fowl, alabaster, clothing

The second chunk of the offering formula.   For new readers, or for old readers who have lost the (pretty rambling) track:  in previous weeks’ exciting episodes, we’ve heard  in ancient Egypt the King owns everything and is high priest of all the temples, and how the temple storerooms gather in all the trade and taxes on behalf of the King – in kind, as there is no coinage for most of the pharaonic period.  The King has given an offering to Osiris –

Now read on.

so that he may give…  In other words, so that when Osiris has finished with his offerings, he will send some of the leftovers round to the tomb for the tomb owner. 

In an ancient Egyptian temple, the priests and temple servants cooked and served three square meals a day to the cult statue of the god – real food, only the best, and lots of it.  They would place the food in front of the god’s statue, and in front of the statues of members of his family and divine visitors from other temple cults in Egypt who hung around in his temple.  Then they would wait for a decent interval, during which they believed the ka or life force of the gods took the nourishment they needed from the food, without actually clearing even a tiny bit of their plates.  (Do not let your kids read this bit; it will give them too easy an excuse not to finish their broccoli.)

When the gods had eaten what they wanted in spirit (they should in theory have been able to have their cake and eat it), the priests got to eat in the flesh.  What was left, they took around to the tomb chapels of the people who had arranged for the afterlife delivery service.  They placed the food in front of the statue of the tomb owner, and the ka of the tomb owner came up the tomb shaft, inhabited his statue and had a good nosh.  If there were not enough leftovers to go round, reciting the spell would make them appear magically in the afterlife.

So, the King gives a lot of offerings to Osiris, and Osiris, once he and his retinue have finished with them, passes some of them along the food chain to the tomb owner.

We’ll have a look at the takeaway menu in the next few posts.

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