Susanllewellyn's Blog

February 6, 2011

What Kind of God Do You Think You Are? Horus the Elder (2)

Filed under: Uncategorized,What kind of god do you think you are? — Susan Llewellyn @ 5:39 pm
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I left you last time round, hand poised over the sorry-you’re-leaving card of a newly redundant colleague, part-way through the offering formula and about to write in the name of the god Horus the Elder, patron divinity of swingeing cuts – except that I hadn’t told you how to spell it.  Sorry about that. You must have terrible non-writer’s cramp by now.  Take a break and flex those aching fingers while I show you which hieroglyphs to home in on. 

You remember Horus the Elder, from his flat-share temple at Kom Ombo; here he is again on the left.  The hieroglyphs which make up his name are these ones, from the right-hand vertical column above his head: 

Heru wer, known to the Greeks as Haroeris, Horus the Elder or Horus the Great. 

Ignoring the  last vestiges of the signs immediately above this group in the relief, the first hieroglyph is the falcon  , transliterated as  originally, but without the w as time went on.  The key to drawing the Horus falcon is to give him curves.  I usually start with the little curved beak, then a rounded head, down the back to the tail, give him some decent feathering around the legs, then bring a curvy wing around to hide his breast, put his feet on and dot his eye.  Everything has to be compact, sleek and rounded for Horus, as in this beautiful relief: 

  The species of falcon which the Egyptians identified with Horus has not been identified, and it’s probably a wild goose chase anyway (no pun intended) as the Egyptians were not that bothered about the finer subdivisions of the Linnaean system of taxonomy – not least becasue it hadn’t been invented then.  But here’s a picture of a real Egytpian falcon anyway: even more beautiful.

The second half of the god’s name is , a stooping old man leaning on a stick.  This is usually the determinative for an old man but it can also be used for a chief or great man, as the village headman would probably be a wise elder – or so one would hope, anyway.  In this case, the latter applies, as it is transliterated wr, “great”.  I usually draw a blob for the head first, then a curve for the back and hips, making him definitely bent with age and not upright as a younger man would be.  Bring the line across for the bottom of his kilt and do a parallel curve up for the front of his body.  Put on matchstick arms and legs, giving the left arm a dangling position and the right arm a sharp v so he can clutch his stick.  The a line across the waist makes his belt.

I have scoured all the sources currently at my disposal for an image of a stooped old man leaning on a staff for you, but without success.  They’re all too upright.  The Egyptians didn’t want to be surrounded by any but fit, active people in th afterlife, and certainly didn’t want to be decrepit themselves.  Sorry.

So there he is:  Horwer, Horus the Elder.  Although the portrait we’re admiring at the moment is from his shared accommodation at Kom Ombo, Horus the Elder was known as “Foremost of Letopolis”, from his main cult centre at the modern Kom Ausim.  We’ll learn how to write that title in the next post.  have a rest now.  Your hand must be killing you.

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