So, the lucky tomb owner now has every good and pure thing. But not just any old every good and pure thing, oh no: only every good and pure thing by which a god lives. Good and pure things for divine consumption only, thank you very much:
Needless to say, the components don’t appear in Egyptian in the same order as that in which they appear in English. A literal translation would be “which lives a god thereby”. That’s a bit of a mouthful. Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces.
The first chunk is perhaps the most famous hieroglyph of them all: the ankh:
It’s easy to draw; a loop with a downstroke and a crossbar. Here’s a sculpted version:
It’s not a cross and, despite what they tell tourists in Egypt, it’s not the key to the Nile or they key of life or any kind of key, not even a key to the offiering cupboard. The Egyptians didn’t have locks and keys. They had bolts and bars and cords and seals, but not locks and keys.
So, what is it, this most famous hieroglyph of them all? Well, what it is, is: a sandal strap. A strap, especially that of a sandal, is what it is. Here is a selection of ancient Egyptian Jimmy Choos:
Ankh is another triliteral sign which expresses the three sounds a, n and the third of the four Egyptian letters h. Ankh is the verb “to live”, and the symbol of life itself, which the gods offer to the nose of the King; the breath of life:
It doesn’t seem quite so refreshing when you think that what he’s really getting is a whiff of hot, sweaty sandal. I mean, you know the ancient world must have been pretty smelly, but realising that their idea of a breath of fresh air was to stick a bit of sandal up your nose takes the concept to another level.
In this bit of the formula, the word is actually:
Ankhet – “which lives”. Yes, the loaf of bread denoting the t has popped up again, as though from a toaster. The technical term for it is a resumptive pronoun, but as we’re not doing grammar, you can forget I said that.
Talking about stale emanations, you already know netjer, god, don’t you? Remember –
netjer aa, “great god”, in the titular of Osiris, and all the stuff about the flagpole? We don’t have to go into all that again, do we – not while we’re still reeling from the scent of insole? The Italians think cheese smells like feet: let’s think of this as a ripe piece of Roquefort. Mmmmm…