Names of Gods and Goddesses, an Update

All Life and Dominion – Khonsu Temple Ptolemaic Gateway, Karnak. © Matthew Whealton 2016

Here are a few updates to my previous post on pronouncing the names of Gods and Goddesses here.

That post mentions that further work is needed for the name of Seth, which is given some more bibliographic background here, along with a slightly modified vocalization.

And there are two new names: those of Khepri and Wepwawet.

I’ll also take the opportunity to talk about some of the details behind these three reconstructions. But first, here are the updates themselves (the Pronunciation Key for the symbols is found in the first post):


Wepwawet  **wap-wi’áiwat   wp-wꜢwt  [*mjw  wap-wiʔáiwat  (< wá:pi + wiʔáiwat, with reduction of initial word stress, vowel length, and final glide as part of a compound noun.] (compound of  wp(ı͗), wꜢwt) n  God Wepwawet (Osing 1976, 131,120-133, 628)

Compound components:

wp(ı͗) **wá:pi [*mjw wá:pi (from Osing class A.II.1 m. sá:ḏim / f. sáḏ, 3ae-inf pattern m. Aá:Bij/w  /  f. AáBj/ Osing’s reconstruction would be **wá:pij/w)] ptcp  Opener (perfective active masculine singular participle) (Osing 1976, 131,120-133). cf. compound wp-wAwt

wꜢwt  *wi’áiwat [wiʔáiwat (Osing shows wiꜢáj.w˘t)] n  ways (f. plu.) (Osing 1976, 628). cf. compound wp-wAwt

Khepri ḫá:pi ḫprı͗  [ḫá:pi MK/NK (Werning shows ḫa:pi) < OK/MK ḫpr ~ ḫá:pir (cf.)] cf: xpr. ptcp God Khepri (Transforming One) MK/NK (m. sg. part.) (Werning 2013, 243; 2014, Teil I, 128, 256, Teil II, 504; 2008, 130-131).

Seth sú:tiẖ stẖ, stš, stḫ  [sú:tiẖ (OK) (Lincke) > sútḫ ~ sútʰch (LE) (Peust)] n  God Seth (Lincke and Kammerzell 2012, 59); (Peust 1997, 117). For justification on early pronunciation with / xʲ / (the standard treatment of, contra Lincke/Kammerzell, where stands for /x/, the _non-palatalized_ voiceless velar fricative), see (Allen 2013, 44-45). For the Kammerzell and Peust positions on and reconstructions of stẖ, respectively see (Kammerzell 2005, various, esp. 182-183) (Peust 1999, 184-185). The Old Coptic reflex is /se:t/ and the Greek Nebenbestellung (transcription) is /se:tʰ/.


For Wepwawet, I have provided my own reconstruction based on Osing’s vocalization for “Ways, Roads” (the “-wawet” part of the name) and the perfective active masculine singular participle “Opener” (the “Wep-” part). Although a vocalization for the participle is not directly attested for the verb wpı͗ ‘to open, clear a path’, the vowel and consonant pattern of the word is a very well-known and well-supported one. It is also the pattern of many basic adjectives and is directly comparable to the active participle of Form I verbs in Arabic. The masculine form of the pattern is Fá:MiL (where F, M, and L stand for the First, Middle, and Last consonant of the tri-consonantal verbal root, respectively) or sá:ḏim (Egyptologists tend to use the consonants of the verb sḏm ‘to hear’ as the pattern scaffold) or Aá:BiC (another more general scaffolding system, where the consonant slots are labeled A, B, C, D, and so on, and the scaffolding can show roots of any number of different primary consonants and various germinating and reduplicating patterns. All these kinds of word patterns occur in Egyptian and many other Afro-Asiatic languages). There is a slight wrinkle here in that the verb wpı͗ is a ‘Third Weak’ i.e. ‘3ae-inf’ verb. Third Weak verbs have the last root consonant as either ‘ı͗/j’ (depending on Egyptological transcriptional style) or ‘w’, each semi-vowels / glides. A final weak consonant affects the way the underlying pattern gets realized in pronunciation and in writing. (And to add in more fun complications, how this happens changes over time as well). From all this we get the pronunciation of wá:pi for the first component word when it stands alone. Now, when we take the next step and combine it with the word wi’áiwat “Ways, Roads”, further changes occur. Egyptian mostly treats the second word of a compound noun as having more weight and therefore as holding the accent or the stronger accent of two component nouns. (Exceptions do exist, of course). So, the first word will lose its stress accent and any vowel lengthening that might accompany that accent. So we go from wá:pi to wapi-. Now, we again face the issue of how to treat that final vowel, which resulted from the elision of the final semi-vowel in the word pattern. Here, I have chosen to simply drop it, since the initial consonant of the second component is itself a semi-vowel. Therefore, we finally end up with wap-. There could easily have been some form that kept the ‘i’, or a slightly changed vowel, for example ‘a’ or a short neutral schwa, perhaps in an earlier or transitional historical stage or in slow speech, but it would tend to get swallowed in the following ‘w’ in connected, normal speed speech in my judgement. All in all, I think the name of the God Wepwawet sounded something close to wap-wi’áiwat.

Khepri’s name shows another kind of sound transformation and an interesting way to indicate it in writing. Here again, we are dealing with the masculine singular perfective active participle pattern Fá:MiL, which is the original Old Kingdom (OK) form of the name: ḫá:pir and which is reflected in OK spellings. This appears to have been the pronunciation into the earlier part of the Middle Kingdom(Werning 2008, 130-131; 2013, 243), when a sound change began to happen that later becomes very strong and very general throughout later forms of the Egyptian Language. A final consonant ‘r’ especially in unstressed final syllables, is dropped, leaving just the vowel (here ‘i’) at the end of the word. This process is sometimes reflected in new spellings of words, as it is in the written forms of the name Khepri. Apparently to indicate that the sound has changed and to reduce confusion as to the original root involved, the scribes spelled the word with _both_ ‘r’ and ‘i’ (as a way to indicate the word ended in a vowel) – to give the spelling ḫprı͗. But the result for pronunciation is that the word now sounded like ḫá:pi. Eventually, in the Ptolemaic Period, most monumental hieroglyphic spellings of Khepri’s name become ḫpy. By that time the sound change was so general that indicating the original root consonant was no longer felt necessary and the r was usually dropped.

Finally, the spellings of Seth’s name show yet again evidence of sound transformations – from very different periods. First the spellings of the name as stẖ and stš reflect a very early shift in hieroglyphic spelling and pronunciation. At first, up to about Dynasty III, there was no separate phoneme for the /š/ (‘sh’ in English) sound, there was only a / xʲ / sound (a palatalized velar fricative similar to the ‘ch’ in the German word ‘ich’), with some variants (these are called allophones) that did not affect meaning. At first there was also only one hieroglyph as well – the ‘lake’ sign usually transliterated as š, at that time pronounced /ẖ/. Then, about the time of Dyn III, a new glyph appeared – the ‘belly’ sign , but it stood for the same original phoneme. This occurred just before there appears to have been a differentiation process in the allophones of / xʲ / into two distinct phonemes / xʲ / =  and / ʃ / = š, represented by the two glyphs as we are familiar with them in the later forms of Egyptian. So on the basis of that, and because the very early spellings of Seth’s name use the spellings stẖ and stš, the name is reconstructed in the OK as sú:tiẖ. It is quite possible that some dialects of Egyptian did take the other route and pronounced the name with / ʃ / as well. Much later, as people migrated from the Levant into the Eastern Delta regions where Seth’s cult was popular, a new spelling becomes prominent: stḫ. This appears to reflect the way people who spoke Semitic languages from the levant heard the sound ~ / xʲ / : to them it sounded like their native consonant ~ /x/ (a _plain_ velar fricative like Hebrew ‘La-Chaim’). As these people adopted Egyptian language and culture, the pronunciation and then the spelling ‘stuck’. Since I am targeting my work towards an educated priestly pronunciation used in formal ritual practice in the earlier part of Dynasty 18, I have chosen to use the ‘native’, literary dialect, and conservative pronunciation sú:tiẖ.

All of this is rather dense I know, questions and comments are welcome.


Allen, James P. 2013. The ancient Egyptian language: an historical study (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, New York, etc.).

Kammerzell, Frank. 2005. ‘Old Egyptian and Pre-Old Egyptian: Tracing linguistic diversity in Archaic Egypt and the creation of the Egyptian language.’ in Stephan Johannes Seidlmayer (ed.), Texte und Denkmäler des ägyptischen Alten Reiches (Achet, Dr. Norbert Dürring, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften: Berlin).

Lincke, Eliese-Sophia, and Frank Kammerzell. 2012. ‘Egyptian classifiers at the interface of lexical semantics and pragmatics’, Lexical Semantics in Ancient Egyptian, Lingua Aegyptia Studia Monographica, 9: 55-112.

Osing, Jürgen. 1976. Die Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen (Philipp von Zabern Verlag: Mainz/Rhein).

Peust, Carsten. 1997. Hieroglyphisch Wort für Wort (Reise Know-How Verlag Rump).

———. 1999. Egyptian phonology: an introduction to the phonology of a dead language (Peust & Gutschmidt Verlag: Göttingen).

Werning, Daniel A. 2008. ‘Aenigmatische Schreibungen in Unterweltsbüchern des Neuen Reiches: gesicherte Entsprechungen und Ersetzungsprinzipien’, Miscellanea in honorem Wolfhart Westendorf: 124-52.

———. 2013. ‘Linguistic Dating of the Netherworld Books Attested in the New Kingdom’, Dating Egyptian Literary Texts: 237-81.

———. 2014. Das Höhlenbuch: Textkritische Edition und Textgrammatik Teil I: Überlieferungsgeschichte und Textgrammatik Teil II: Textkritische Edition und Übersetzung (Harrassowitz Verlag).

All text © Matthew Whealton 2017, image © Matthew Whealton 2016

Foundational Polytheism

Karnak Reversion of Offerings

Over at there is an important article for people seeking support and guidance as they explore their new interest or participation in polytheistic traditions contemporary and historical. I heartily recommend it. Here’s a quote of the included definition of “Foundational Polytheism”:

Foundational Polytheism is a collective starting point, a methodology of approach and procedure, for religious engagement and “entrance” into polytheism, in practice or identity, addressing particular distinct needs of polytheistic religions not adequately provided for elsewhere. It does not replace, or supplant, or override the internal structures of individual polytheistic religions, but rather, it provides a practical bedrock of foundation for those who might not yet have access to, or involvement with, or knowledge of, a given specific religious tradition.”

Also, as part of the comments, a discussion has begun on Kemetic approaches to reversion of offerings and human consumption of offered food and drink that readers here may find interesting. The issue is this: For many polytheistic religions, food offered to the Gods and Goddesses is not consumed by people, since it is seen as a breach of hospitality to the Deities. (I’m sure there are other reasons as well. And I hope I have not mis-characterized any traditions in that brief statement). For Kemetic practice, food and drink _are_ consumed after offering and the Reversion of Offerings is part of formal Egyptian Temple practice in the ancient texts. Now, if there are beginning polytheists who are having some sort of spiritual experience with as-yet unidentified Deities and who are not (yet) following the rules of any specific tradition, should they consume or not consume offerings? Is it some sort of offence with negative consequences _not_ to consume the offerings if the Deities in question turn out to be Egyptian?

In my own practice with the Temple of Ra in San Francisco, we allow for this by offering the reverted food and drink (and natron-infused water, suitably diluted) to plants or animals in the environment. And we don’t advocate that there are negative consequences to doing so. This is of course a specific perspective and there are likely others.
Please go over to the site to see the article and discussion there. (Sometimes the comments icon doesn’t show up. If that happens, try selecting the Featured Voices menu item at the top. It will work until a new article in that category is posted. Hopefully the glitch will be fixed soon.

And please feel free to respond here with your own thoughts and practices, if you’d like.

Image credit: Scene of the Reversion of Offerings in the Hypostyle Hall of Karnak Temple. Scanned from Nikolaus Tacke, Das Opferritual des ägyptischen Neues Reiches, Orientalia Lovanienska Analecta 222, Peeters, 2013. Volume I, Plate 42. 

The image was originally published in Harold Hayden Nelson, Edited by William J. Murnane, The Great Hypostyle Hall at Karnak, Volume 1, Part 1: The Wall Reliefs (OIP 106), Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 1981. This publication is available for free download here

Say What’s Right, Do What’s Right, #BlackLivesMatter

T-Shirt Pttern corrected 20150707

In the face of the near constant destruction of the lives of Black People and other People of Color in this country by the very forces and institutions whose mission it is to protect us all as citizens, I will speak of my own response as a Kemetic person in this post.
In my personal shrine stand Ptah, Sekhmet, Khonsu, Nefertum, Djahuty (Thoth), Maat, Usit (Isis), and Antinous. Each morning they are greeted, wakened, and offered incense. And each morning I speak a #BlackLivesMatter/#SayTheirNames prayer to Them on behalf of Black People, that they know justice and safety and freedom.
It is a small thing in important ways. I’m not out in the streets every day working as an activist to put pressure on in a physical, physically present way. I do contribute to the cause, do sign the petitions, do educate my white friends and relatives. But, I could do more, and own up to that responsibility to do more as I can. So this post is no beating of the breast of self-righteousness. It is a cry to myself (and to you as reader) that more, so very much more, needs to be done.

That said, it is an important thing spiritually and is a sacred duty for me. After all, Maat is present in my shrine – and She is Truth, and Justice, and Right, and the Right Thing, and the Way Things Should Be, and the Natural Order of All-That-Exists. She is the warp upon which the Creator Gods and Goddesses weave Creation. Or maybe She is the very molecules of the fibers, whose natural order allows threads and fabrics to exist at all. And, since Creation must be maintained each day, each moment, She is the essential Offering in all Kemetic ritual, and the Divine protector of the Gods and Goddesses Themselves and the spirits of the Blessed Dead. She is the core of Kemetic ethics and duty – on personal, social, and sacral levels. So, I feel it is my duty to seek justice for Black People and every other kind of person who is unjustly oppressed or victimized.

Why write today? Because today and yesterday, in anguish, I added new names to my #SayTheirNames litany that is now a requisite part of my morning devotional ritual. They are #AltonSterling and #PhilandoCastile. May the Gods and Goddesses guide their journeys to the West. May they shine as Transfigured Spirits in the Barque of Millions.

Here is the brief #BlackLivesMatter/#SayTheirNames prayer I use each day. I offer it to all Kemetics (and everyone else) for your use. It may be a small thing, but it is a right thing and a good thing. May you strive to Say What’s Right and Do What’s Right: To Speak Maat and Do Maat.

Words To Say:

Homage to you, Great Gods and Goddesses of this House and Temple.

May you watch over Black People’s Lives. Protect them from unwarranted violence by police, prison officials, vigilantes, politicians, the media, and the culture at large.

Grant them Justice,

Grant them Justification,

Grant them Equality,

Grant them Safety and Peace they have not known in this country for hundred of years.

Black Lives Matter.


I say their names.

The names of some of those who have died in this unwarranted violence,

and recall and pray for those many many more whose names I do not know and cannot say.

Sandra Bland

Michael Brown

Travon Martin

Tamir Rice

Eric Garner

Freddie Gray

Darrien Hunt

William Chapman II

Aiyana Stanley-Jones

Walter Scott

Phillip White

Shawn Bell

Kimani Gray

John Crawford

Miriam Carey

Sharhonda Singleton

Emmit Till

Tommy Yancy

Jordan Baker

Amadou Dialo

Samuel DuBose

Natasha McKenna

Jeremé Reid

Fridoon Rawshan Nehad

Corey Jones

Linwood Lambert

Jamar Clark

Rekia Boyd

Laquan McDonald

Gynnya McMillen

Jessica Nelson

Alton Sterling

Philando Castile.

May you guide them safely to the West.

May they shine in the Barque of Millions of Years

as inspiration to us all to continue the struggle and fight

against this unwarranted violence against Black People’s bodies.

Black Lives Matter.

Homage to you oh Great Gods and Goddesses.



Waking Karnak



Morning Hymns in various forms are found across the entire time-span of Egyptian religious writing – from Old Kingdom pyramids to Roman temples and papyri. Deities, insignia, architectural elements, spirits in the afterlife, and more were awakened using these hymns – sometimes quite briefly and sometimes in elaborately structured litanies. The longevity and diversity of these texts fascinate me and I’ve discussed them here and  even written one here previously.

The focus for this post is a version found in the daily Temple Statue Ritual conducted in Temples (pBerlin 3055, Episode 6. The classic treatment of the Temple Statue Ritual found in Moret, Alexandre Le Rituel du Culte Divin Journalier en Égypte d’Après les Papyrus Berlin et du Temple de Séti Ier, à Abydos, 1902 is now outdated. A more recent treatment is Braun, Nadja, Pharao und Priester – Sakrale Affirmation von Herrschaft durch Kultvollzug: Das Tägliche Kultbildritual im Neuen Reich und der Dritten Zwischenzeit, 2013. I have relied on this text for transliteration and to some extent translation below, while using Moret for his hieroglyphic transcription). It is unique, as far as I know, in that the Deity addressed in the initial stanza (with the pride of place that signifies) is the Goddess who _is_ the Karnak Temple Complex itself (herself!).

We have evidence from the hymn’s position in this papyrus, as well as the locations of examples found in later temples, that the morning hymns were chanted or sung near the beginning of the day’s rituals, close to dawn. We cannot be precisely sure of the sequence of events, which could have varied by circumstance, period, and local custom, but in this case it is placed after “Stepping to the Sacred Place” and before the beginning of the sanctuary entry sequence itself (cutting the papyrus cord of the door seal). Similarly, the elaborate examples at Edfu and Dendera are carved on the outer façade of the Barque Sanctuaries of these temples on either side of the doors, an appropriate place if the hymns were sung before or as the doors of the Sanctuaries were opened in the morning.

In our case the Temple as the Goddess Ipet-Sut (the well-known name of Karnak – “Most Select of Places”) is awakened first, followed by the Shrines and Gods and Goddesses within her. Then widening spheres of deities in various cities, sky, earth, and the four directions follow. Finally, the royal ancestors and their children (presumably the statues of previous Kings and Royal personages who received offerings each day) are wakened.

An interesting aspect of this hymn – in contrast to those at Edfu, Dendara, the Pyramid Texts, and various papyri – is its focus on awakening collectives of Deities. The one individual here is Karnak herself, who is given the epithet “Mistress of the Temples and the Gods and Goddesses within her”. We see the awakening formulas for Amun-Ra (the presiding God of Karnak) as an individual embedded in larger hymns in Episodes 37, 38, and 39 later in the text. (The sequential placement of the episodes in that section of the papyrus is problematic. A number of them are reiterations of earlier episodes while others have titles stating that they were for festival use. Some scholars title this entire section ‘the Re-entry’ but it seems unsatisfying that the sanctuary entry sequence was simply repeated for no special reason. (There is evidence that by Greek times, the entry sequence was repeated twice – once at the doors to the Sanctuary, and once again before the Kar shrine containing the sacred images). Perhaps that was already occurring at Karnak in the 22nd Dynasty, perhaps there were shrines that were only opened during festivals, perhaps parts of the sequence actually occurred simultaneously in two (or more) different sanctuaries – for example in the Barque Sanctuary and in the Per Wer (“Great House”) deeper in the Temple. It is even possible that there could be combination scenarios – where simultaneous opening of the Per Wer and the Barque Shrine was only done during festivals. For the moment though, it is safe to assume these individually addressed wakening hymns for Amun occurred in close contiguity to the opening of the doors of shrines of Amun – and close in time to the initial hymn for the Temple Goddess).

Another interesting tidbit is the sequence of directions in the hymn: South, then North, then West, then East. This is the sequence generally followed in Egypt and is distinctly different from the ‘circular’ listing often seen in other cultures. Here, the directions appear as two complementary pairs creating two axes that all together create the concept of ‘everywhere’. This way of dividing the universe into dynamic complementary (or conflicting) pairs to express totalities is a prevalent method of conceptualizing reality for the Egyptians – be it Djet/Neheh time, Ra/Osiris, Horus/Set, Upper/Lower Egypt, the Black Land/the Red Land, or Hu/Sia. In fact, it appears that the way to express ‘The totality of what is conceivable’ in Egyptian is “The existent (and) the non-existent” (ntt iwtt – see Erik Hornung’s Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many for more on this tendency. The specific quote on ntt iwtt is found on page 176, but the topic is discussed in several places).

So with some background established, here is the hymn in translation, followed by a reconstructed vocalization of the Egyptian version. Next time you are in Luxor, try to visit Karnak early in the morning (it opens quite early – before dawn during the winter) and if you are so moved, say or sing this hymn to Her. She will appreciate at, and so will the many, many Gods and Goddesses of the complex!

Special thanks to Don Frew for the photo accompanying this post. It was taken before dawn at Karnak Temple on Jan 12, 2016.

Translation of Episode 6, pBerlin 3055:

Title: Another Utterance

May you awake beautifully in peace, oh Karnak!

Mistress of the Temples and the Gods and Goddesses within you (lit. ‘her’)!

Gods and Goddesses who are in Karnak,

Gods and Goddesses who are in Thebes,

Gods and Goddesses who are in Heliopolis,

Gods and Goddesses who are in Memphis,

Gods and Goddesses who are in the Sky,

Gods and Goddesses who are in the Earth,

Gods and Goddesses who are in the South, the North, The West (and) the East,

Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt,

Children of a King who have received the White Crown

Makers of monuments for Amun in Karnak:

May you (pl.) awake! May you (pl.) be at peace!

May you (pl.) awake beautifully in peace!


Reconstructed vocalization:

(You can find a key to pronouncing the sounds here)

káy rá’

Rassáṯ náfrat(1) ma ḥátap ’apit-sí:t(2)

ḥanúwat ra’u-pírya:t(3) naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu:s

naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu ’apit-sí:t

naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu ’awánu

naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu ḥwit-ka’-pitáḥ

naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu pú’at

naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu tá’

naṯúru naṯára:t amí:yu rú:si: maḥí:ti: ’amínti:t ’a’íbti:t

na insí:u-bi’ítiu(4)

masíyu(5) ínsaw šáspu(6) ḥí:ḏat

áriu: ma:nu ni ’amá:nu ma ’apit-sí:t

rassáṯunu(7) ḥatpáṯunu

rassáṯunu náfir ma ḥátap



  1. The text shows the masculine form nfr. Adding the feminine -t
  2. I have not found a reconstruction of ipt-swt so far in the literature. This reconstruction takes ipt as a feminine passive participle vocalized using the pattern CaCíC (per John D. Ray, “The Vocalisation of Middle Egyptian: A Survey”. Lingua Aegyptia 12 (2004), 143-155) and the plural form of s.t (reconstructed as “sít” per Jürgen Osing, Die Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen. Mainz 1976, 324) to be sí:t by vowel lengthening (cf. Werning, Daniel A., “Hypotheses on Glides and Matres Lectionis in Earlier Egyptian Orthographies” in Coping With Obscurity: The Brown Workshop on Earlier Egyptian Grammar. Lockwood Press 2016. 30-44; and Wolfgang Schenkel, Aus der Arbeit an einer Konkordanz zu den altägyptischen Sargtexten. Teil 2. Zur Pluralbildung des Ägyptischen. Göttinger Orientforschungen : Reihe 4, Ägypten ; Band 12. Harrassowitz, 1983, 208-209). The stress is dropped in apít since it is the first element in the compound, by what appears to be the usual rule in Egyptian compound nouns – the stress is retained in the second element (there are exceptions to this, of course).
  3. The reconstruction of this plural compound noun, usually transliterated rꜢ.w-pr.w,  is rather difficult. Osing Nominalbildung shows the singular (rꜢ-pr) to be rá’-pé/iry˘t (which simplified and fleshed out for our purposes becomes rá’-píryat), taking the second member of the compound to be a feminine singular collective noun ‘Houses’ on the basis of the Coptic reflexes, themselves sub-components embedded in larger compound nouns. This etymology however does not seem to match the New Kingdom writings, where the feminine -t ending is not found in either singular or plural writings I am aware of. The New Kingdom scribes write the compound as though it is a simple joining of two masculine nouns, and felt them to be distinct enough to give both nouns plural strokes when referring to more than one temple. Here, with reservations, I am following Osing and reconstructing the plural as “ra’u-pírya:t” with vowel lengthening for the plural of píryat (cf. Werning, Daniel A., “Hypotheses on Glides and Matres Lectionis in Earlier Egyptian Orthographies” in Coping With Obscurity: The Brown Workshop on Earlier Egyptian Grammar. Lockwood Press 2016. 30-44; and Wolfgang Schenkel, Aus der Arbeit an einer Konkordanz zu den altägyptischen Sargtexten. Teil 2. Zur Pluralbildung des Ägyptischen. Göttinger Orientforschungen : Reihe 4, Ägypten ; Band 12. Harrassowitz, 1983, 208-209.
  4. I have found no direct reconstruction of the plural of the compound noun ‘Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt’ in the literature. The singular of nswt (perhaps more properly nsw – see below) ‘King of Upper Egypt’ is reconstructed as ‘jíns˘w or very similar by a number of authors on the basis of Akkadian transcriptions from the New Kingdom. The singular of nswt-bit(i) is also attested in Akkadian as in-si/e-i/eb-ia – corresponding to Egyptian *insí/ebia in the time of Ramses II (cf. Jürgen Osing. Die Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen. Mainz 1976. 370, 478). Osing (op. cit. 313) also gives b˘jí:t˘j for the singular of biti (King of Lower Egypt). Recent work on nswt has apparently been gravitating to amending the transliteration for the word from nswt to simply nsw (see Schenkel, Wolfgang. “Grenzen und Chancen bei der Erschliessung der älteren Ägyptisch” in Coping With Obscurity: The Brown Workshop on Earlier Egyptian Grammar. Lockwood Press 2016, 8). For that reason, I am not reconstructing a „t“ in the compound noun here. For the plural, I am using the standard plural forms -u(:) and -ti:u for the components, with stress shift to the penult for the plural of nsw by Zweisilbengesetz. In this case I am retaining the stress in both elements of the compound noun.
  5. Taking as plural masculine perfective passive participle vocalized using the pattern CaCíC (per John D. Ray, “The Vocalisation of Middle Egyptian: A Survey”. Lingua Aegyptia 12 (2004), 143-155), with the addition of the masculine plural affix -u(:).
  6. Taking as plural perfective active participle.
  7. 2nd person plural subjunctive sḏm.f used optatively. For the vocalization of the stem of this form as CaCCá-, see (among others): Andréas Stauder, “Interpreting written morphology: the sḏm.n=f in the Pyramid Texts”. In: Journal of Near Eastern Studies 73,2 (2014), 253-271.



Names of Gods, Names of Goddesses


One of my passions when it comes to things Kemetic is the sounds of the language used in ritual… So I comb through the linguistic Egyptological literature looking out for reconstructed vocalizations, especially those relevant to Earlier Egyptian (Old Egyptian + Middle Egyptian). Among those, the reconstructions of names of Gods and Goddesses are important since they impact ritual so directly. They also differ from the forms known to us all, since most of the names we use today are a) Greek or Coptic forms that had undergone a number of sound shifts and translation into an entirely different language (in the case of Greek names) by the time they were written or b) pronunciations according to the intentionally artificial system Egyptologists use for Egyptian words or c) hybrids of a) and b). The reconstructed vocalizations scholars have and are developing work with various kinds of evidence (including the Greek and Coptic versions of words) to arrive at form that better reflects the sounds earlier in Egyptian history. This is often a fuzzy target, but sometimes we can recover a series of stages as a word changed over time. Scholars (and whole schools of scholars) vary in their approaches to this, of course. There are many open questions as to what can and cannot be safely inferred and how the writing system can be used to recover vowels (or not). Many of the reconstructions in the literature are incomplete in the sense that certain vowels (and sometimes consonants) are left unspecified when we do not have adequate evidence to define them. Other times reconstructions contain vowels that had already transformed historically and so represent a later historical period than Earlier Egyptian (1). The field is quite a live one in Egyptology though now, after a period of around 50 years in the latter part of the twentieth century when syntactic arguments dominated the field and morphology and phonology was distinctly less emphasized.


So I face a conundrum in trying to fully pronounce a word or name for singing or recitation – I can’t rely on complete data all the time. In those cases, I will do my best to pick the sound that best fits known patterns (there are many well documented patterns for nouns, and some for verb forms too) or that sounds best to me. I do confess I rely on Arabic in this process sometimes, which shares kinship and many phonological and morphological similarities with Egyptian. That way I can use the names and words now, to deepen practice and get closer to the poetics and rhythms of the language, which we know were very important to how ritual speech worked in Egypt. This is something I will return to again and again in these postings, so bear with me if I leave details aside for now. My hope, of course, is that new evidence and/or theoretical progress will arise to fill in some of these gaps. But we will always be using vocalizations that are partially synthesized and simplified from the actual speech situation at any particular time among any particular speech community from Ancient Egypt. We will never achieve perfection in this. But I believe it is an honorable goal to attempt to get as close as possible as way to deepen our appreciation of the art, the magic, and the power of these words.


With that said, here are some names of Gods and Goddesses in a form closer to how they sounded in the early New Kingdom Temples (2). They will undoubtedly change over time as more information is gathered, and I’ll try to post those updates as they come along. Please know that they are presented here not to say that you have to use them or to disparage the names you already use for the Gods and Goddesses. Use them if and as you like – for experimenting in your own practice, or to help you understand the rhythmic structure and word plays found in the ritual texts (refer to slide 19 in Weaving the Cloth of Reality: Word and Sound in Egyptian Ritual).


(1) This often results in originally different vowels being combined into a neutral schwa-like sound, or ‘e’ (written in Coptic with the Greek letter epsilon) or long stressed e (represented in Coptic by the Greek letter eta). For example, stressed e results from earlier stressed i or stressed u (the two shifts happening sequentially).  So, in a word that survives in Coptic with eta, we can only say the vowel was likely í: or ú: originally.

(2) An asterisk will indicate names where I have supplied a vowel. A double asterisk will indicate a name I have reconstructed myself, using vowel transformation rules, survivals in Coptic and Greek, and other evidence in the literature.


Name List

Amun amá:nu [amána / amánu (Schenkel shows iamá:nuw). “Hidden One” NK Cun. a-ma-na ~ ‘amánə > ~ amáne (LE) (Peust)] Allen AEL 2013, 24; Schenkel EAS 1990, 89 ; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Anubis ** aná:pu [mjw *aná:pu (on basis of Coptic survival panub ~ Arabic banu:b and the similarly patterned names imn, itm, which see for more bibliography].


Atum  *atá:mu [ia:tāmuw = mjw: ‘atámu >~ atʰám (LE) (Peust)] Schenkel LingAeg 2005, 147; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Bastet *bu’ísti:t [buʔísti:t or buʔístiat > béstʰe (LE) (Peust) > ubísti (late); buʔísti:t or buʔístiat > béstʰe (LE) (Peust) > ubísti (late) (Osing : b(u)Ꜣést˘t) > Copt F. ubesti; mjw preferred form buʔísti:t according to feminine singular nisbe ending for f. nouns ult-t ‘-ti:t’ from Werning]  Allen AEL 2013, 74; Osing NB 1976, 310, 855-856; Peust Hiero 2001, 117; Werning Glides 2016, 33, 37, 38


Hathor  ** ḥatḥáru or (possibly?) ḥatḥára [*mjw ḥatḥáru or ḥatḥára > ~ ḥatḥáre (LE) (Peust)] Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Horus ḥára or ḥáru [ḥára (Allen)] [ḥá:ruw > ḥó:rə after Ramses II c. 1200 BCE (Loprieno, Schenkel)] [ḥá:ruw > ḥá:rə ~ NK Cun. ḫa-a-ra  > ḥó:rə after Ramses II c. 1200 BCE. (Loprieno, Schenkel) ~ Akk Neo-Assyrian -ḫuru- >~ (LE) Háre (Peust) > Copt. S hōr] Allen AE 2013, 25; Loprieno AE 1995, 38, 55; Schenkel EAS 1990, 61, 70, 88; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Isis úsit [úsit ~ Meroitic Wos (*usa) (Schenkel Meroitic Woš /wusa/) > (Peust LE úse) > Assyrian (8th C. BCE) ešu > Copt S e:se B, A e:si]  Allen LingAeg 2013b; Schenkel EAS 1990, 90; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Khonsu ḫánsu [ḫánsu (Osing shows ḫánz˘w). in Cun. compound U-ṣi-xa-an-ša (probably for wḏꜢ-ḫnsw) > (LE) chánse (Peust)] Osing 1976, 166; Vycichl Vocalisation 1990, 180; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Maat  mú’Ꜥat [múʔʕa (Allen) / (múʀʕat Lop.) / (múꜢ`at Ray) (múꜢꜤ˘t > múꜢꜤə Schenkel)] Allen AEL 2013, 25; Loprieno AE 1995, 39; Ray LingAeg 1999, 134; Schenkel EAS 1990, 88


Mehit *maḥú:yat [maḥú:jvt > məḥú:ʔ]  Loprieno AE 1995, 39


Min mínu [mínu (Allen) >~ (LE) mín (Peust)] Allen AEL 2013, 82; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Montu ** mánṯu [*mjw mánṯu >~ mántʰe (LE) (Peust); mjw: using ṯ instead of t on basis of OE attestations, all of which use the spelling mnṯw (see Hannig)] Peust Hiero 2001, 117; Hannig WAR 2003, 1594


Mut  ** mí’wat [*mjw mí’wat < meʔwat (Loprieno) > méwtʰ (LE) (Peust)] Loprieno AE 1995, 245; Peust Hiero, 117


Neith ní:yit [nīrit / nīyit (Ray) > néjtʰ (LE) (Peust)] Ray LingAeg 2004, 153; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Nephthys ** nibatḥáwt [*mjw nibatḥáwt  > ~nebtʰḥá (LE) (Peust)] Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Osiris usúri [usúri  > (by 8th c. BCE) uséri  Meroitic: Asori (*usúri) (Schenkel shows /(a)sure/ for the Meroitic) > wsíre (LE) (Peust); Coptic Ousiri, Ousire] Allen LingAeg 2013b; Schenkel EAS 1990, 90 ; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Ptah pitáḥ [pitáḥ > ~ pʰtʰáH (LE) (Peust)] Loprieno AE 1995, 34; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Ra rí:Ꜥu [rí:ʕuw/rí:ʕu > (*LE) ré:ʕə >~ (LE) pʰe-rí* (Peust; note: for pʰe-ríʕ) ~Akk -ri-ia, -re-e in ša-ti/e-i/ep-na ri-a = stp.n rꜤw ? > Copt. S, B, Sub-A rē, A ri; but F, M re] Loprieno AE 1995, 39, 62; Gundacker LingAeg 2011, 59; Schenkel EAS 1990, 89; Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Sekhmet ** síḫmat or **sáḫmit [**mjw síḫmat < sí:ḫimat < si:ḫimat (Ray) > (LE) séchme (Peust; note: for séḫme)] Ray LingAeg 1999, 126, 130; Peust Hiero 2001, 117 (Note: I am not convinced of this reconstruction. It seems **sáḫmit fits the Greek evidence at least as well).


Seshemtet saší:mti:t [*mjw saší:mti:t ~ sašîmtiyat/sašîmtiyit (*mjw frrom general discussion in Ray); with feminine singular nisbe ending for f. nouns ult-t ‘-ti:t’ from Werning] Ray LingAeg 2004, 152; Werning Glides 2016, 33, 37, 38


Set sútḫ [sútḫ ~ sútʰch (LE) Peust)] Peust Hiero 2001, 117 (this needs more work, to confirm the antecedent to Peust’s LE reconstruction)


Shu šáw [šáw] Osing NB 1976, 45, 511-512


Tefnut * tifú:nat [t^(f)fûnat] Ray LingAeg 2004, 150 (For those with sharp eyes, you may notice that this vocalization is different from the one used in the Weaving the Cloth presentation at Pantheacon. My bad there, I simply did not cross check with my database, and substituted the pattern found in the name of Wadjet erroneously).


Thoth  ** ḏaḥáwti: or ḏaḥú:ti: [*mjw ḏaḥáwti or ḏaḥú:ti < tḥáwtʰe (LE – Peust)] Peust Hiero 2001, 117


Wadjet *wa’ḏá:wat [*mjw wa’ḏá:wat  ~ Osing: waꜢḏá:w˘t (OK) (Noun pattern VI , f.)] Osing NB 1976, 168, 669 (Note 736), 758-760 (Note 919), 791 (Note 993)








Key to pronunciations of Egyptian words in the God Names in this post. Note that the explanatory text in square brackets [], contains other characters as well, since I have tried to stick as closely as I can to the various authors’ usages. WordPress also limits posts to one very limited font, so I have had to expunge text in Coptic and Greek (mostly) and convert some characters to reasonable equivalents for the Blog.

a, i, u = short pure vowels: the ‘a’ of “father”, ‘ee’ of “beet”, ‘u’ of “Luke” but short in duration.

´ = primary syllable stress, no vowel quality change, though perhaps a bit longer in duration

: = long vowel duration, hold the vowel preceding the colon longer – about twice as long

’ = glottal stop, a catch in the throat that stops the sound momentarily, like the transition between the two syllables of English “Uh-oh” or the way a person speaking British Cockney slang would say the two ‘tt’ in “bottle”

Ꜥ = a consonant with the sound of the Arabic letter `ain – not present in English or related languages. It is common in languages of the Afro-Asiatic language phylum, to which Egyptian, Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac, Somali, and many others belong. It is made by constricting the throat and forcing air past the blockage. To give a rough idea of the sound, try saying ‘ah’ and slowly (carefully!) pushing your throat just above the Adam’s apple with your fingers to restrict the airflow. Here is a video which may help:

ḥ = an h stronger than English, sort of like a cat or iguana hissing, similar to the strong ‘j’ in Latin American Spanish “Juan”

ḫ = like ‘ch’ in German “Ach”, Scottish “Loch”, or Hebrew “la-Chayim”

ẖ = a soft ch sound – like the ‘ch’ in southern German “ich

ḳ = a sound like English ‘k’ but further back in the throat.

ḏ = dj like English “just”

ṯ = ch like English “chip”



Bibliography of books and articles cited:


Allen AEL 2013:

James P. Allen. The Ancient Egyptian Language: an historical study. Cambridge University Press, 2013.


Allen LingAeg 2013b:

James P. Allen. The Name of Osiris (and Isis). In: Lingua Aegyptia 21 (2013), 9–14


Gundacker LingAeg 2011:

Roman Gundacker. On the Etymology of the Egyptian Crown Name mrsw.t. In: Lingua Aegyptia 19 (2011), 37-86


Hannig WAR 2003:

Rainer Hannig. Ägyptisches Wörterbuch 1. Altes Reich und Erste Zwischenzeit. Zabern,  2003


Loprieno AE 1995:

Loprieno, Antonio. Ancient Egyptian: a linguistic introduction. Cambridge University Press, 1995.


Osing NB 1976:

Jürgen Osing. Die Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen. Mainz 1976


Peust Hiero 2001:

Peust, Carsten. Hieroglyphisch Wort für Wort. Reise Know-How Verlag, Bielefeld 2011

Note: Peust here uses an aspirated/unaspirated opposition for the sounds represented by graphemes t (Gardiner X1, bread loaf) and d (Gardiner D46, hand), instead of the more typical unvoiced/voiced opposition. But cf. his paper: Peust, Carsten 2008. On consonant frequency in Egyptian and other languages. Lingua Aegyptia 16, 105-134, where he revises this view in favor of an unvoiced/emphatic (not voiced) opposition. All reconstructions are noted here as published in Peust Hiero 2001.


Ray LingAeg 1999:

John D. Ray. The Vocalisation of Adjectives in Egyptian in: Lingua Aegyptia 6, 1999. 119-140.

Transcription conventions:

Note: â = long, stressed; á = short, stressed; ā = long; e = reduced unaccented vowel, perhaps but not necessarily similar to Hebrew shewa. Coptic and Later Greek equivalents: short a > Coptic o; long i: and u: to Coptic long e:; long a: to Coptic long o: .


Ray LingAeg 2004:

John D. Ray. “The Vocalisation of Middle Egyptian: A Survey”. Lingua Aegyptia 12 (2004), 143-155.


Schenkel EAS 1990:

Wolfgang Schenkel. Einführung in die altägyptische Sprachwissenschaft. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1990.


Schenkel LingAeg 2005:

Wolfgang Schenkel. Die ägyptische Nominalbildungslehre und die Realität der hieroglyphischen Graphien der Sargtexte. Die Nominalbildungsklassen A I 5 und A I 6. In Lingua Aegyptia 13 (2005), 141–171


Vycichl Vocalisation 1990:

Werner Vycichl. La Vocalisation de la Langue Égyptienne. Institute Français d’Archéologie Orientale du Caire, Le Caire, 1990


Werning Glides 2016:

Werning, Daniel A. . “Hypotheses on Glides and Matres Lectionis in Earlier Egyptian Orthographies” in Coping Wit Obscurity: The Brown Workshop on Earlier Egyptian Grammar. Lockwood Press 2016


Djeser Djeseru


Djeser Djeseru

Dawn light and cliff glow

Bathe the stone walls and altar –

White, orpiment, and umber

Blend to gold. There are birds, birds

(How these birds exist is with their faces as people and their nature as birds,)*

Banking and turning above, like waves against the cliffs, but not touching, not crashing.

In a conscious flow they call through the dry rock cove – Living, living.

(One of them speaking to the other with the speech of crying.)

Crying like the Ba of Shu, a wind of souls,

They greet the shining sun who woke them

From dark caves beyond the mountain.

From lament to joy, their song cheers – healing, healing,

(After they come to eat plants and get nourished in the Black Land,)

As their waves subside. Dry rock silence replaces echoes of ancient voices

And they descend to lush fields below – birsim and sesame, cabbage and cane. Flying, flying,

(alighting under the brightness of the sky,)

To a broader light they move. Layers of newness subsume old thoughts

Across the flat rich land and canals.

The spectrum widens in greens and metal-shine,

With old rhythms still sounding, sounding –

(then they change into their nature of birds.)

In their separate hearts, now just people, now just birds,

Echoes linger of Gods they praised in Most Sacred of Sacred Places:

Blessing, blessing.


Djeser Djeseru is the Egyptian name of the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahri. The Name is often translated as ‘Holy of Holies’. Here I translate as “Most Sacred of Sacred Places”, since Holy of Holies carries some confusing connotations from usage in other religious traditions. Djeser Djseru is the proper name of the Temple here. The central, most sacred shrine in a temple is usually called Per-Wer (pr-wr) ‘Great House’, or sometimes Set-Weret (s.t-wr.t) ‘Great Seat/Throne’.
*Red italic text in parentheses from an inscription in the Cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos. Translation by James P. Allen. Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts. Yale Egyptological Studies 2, 1988: 1.

© Matthew J. Whealton, May 2016

Pantheacon 2016 Presentations

Pantheacon 2016 Presentations

[Update 4/6/2016: I have added the short descriptions of the talks, as well as a couple of notes about them]

Here are two presentations delivered at Pantheacon 2016:

Waking up Gods, Waking up Creation: The Egyptian Morning Hymn

Descriptive blurb submitted for the Pantheacon Program: “We will explore the Morning Hymn used to waken the Gods and Goddesses in Egyptian Temples – covering the hymn’s history, meaning, parts, and performance. We will end by learning to pronounce and sing choral portions of the hymn and then perform a complete hymn together for a God or Goddess”.

Presentation – PDF rendering of PowerPoint slides and a PDF handout distributed at the talk.

Waking The Gods Presentation

Waking The Gods Handout


Weaving the Cloth of Reality: Word and Sound in Egyptian Ritual

Descriptive blurb submitted for the Pantheacon Program: “Egyptian rituals use the sounds of words, along with their meanings, to connect to mythic themes and tie the ritual utterances together into effective tools. The goal is to please the Gods, re-energize Them, and sustain creation itself each day. We will explore sound and how it can deepen our modern understanding and practice of Egyptian ritual by looking at current progress in reconstructing the pronunciation of Egyptian, analyze the layers of meaning in some simple ritual texts, and then pronounce them”.

Presentation – PDF rendering of PowerPoint slides

Weaving The Cloth Of Reality Presentation


These slides are clearly not the complete content of the talks and unfortunately the talks were not recorded. Nevertheless, I will leave these here in the interest of documentation and as a reference point for some later posts, so I may refer back to them.

You will notice that some of the material from The Morning Hymn for Seven Goddesses is included in the Pantheacon slides. We sang about half of that Hymn as part of the presentation, diverging a little bit from the plan in the blurb text.

The ‘Waking the Gods Handout’ provides a short form Morning Hymn vocalization for both a God and a Goddess and a pronunciation key. If you feel so moved, use them in your own devotions. By all means experiment – sing them in English or Egyptian, for any God or Goddess, using whichever way of saying Their names that is meaningful to you, or chant them, or say them out loud. They are meant as tools and (hopefully) take off points for your own practice. No need to obsess over doing them one right way. The Egyptians had multiple versions, and we can too. Make them live!

There are more examples of the Morning Hymn text than are covered in ‘Waking the Gods’. One of those, Utterance 6 of the Temple Statue Ritual (Berlin Papyrus 3055), titled simply ky r(A) “Another Utterance”, contains a quite interesting version. It will receive its own treatment in a subsequent post.

The photograph is one I took at Deir el Bahri Temple in January 2016. It shows the rising sun shining directly into the sanctuary of Amun, albeit somewhat misaligned. The alignment would be very near perfect at the Winter Solstice, to which the temple is aligned. We were there a couple of weeks later.