Earlier this fall, John Beckett was looking for a Hymn to Nut for the Under the Ancient Oaks Video series. It appears no ancient ones survived as such, though Nut is the focus of some of the Cosmology Texts such as the Fundamentals of the Course of the Stars (usually called the Book of Nut until quite recently) and the Books of the Day and Night. We do have, however, many epithets for the Goddess, distributed across those works, the funerary literature, and Temple texts. So I offered to assemble a hymn using the Wake in Peace framework for the video.
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’áiwatwp-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)
wp(ı͗) **wá:pi [*mjw wá:pi (from Osing class A.II.1 m. sá:ḏim / f. sáḏm.at, 3ae-inf pattern m. Aá:Bij/w / f. AáBj/w.at. 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:piḫprı͗ [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:tiẖstẖ, 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 ẖ, contra Lincke/Kammerzell, where ẖ stands for /x/, the _non-palatalized_ voiceless velar fricative), see (Allen 2013, 44-45). For the Kammerzell and Peust positions on ẖ 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 ẖ, 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 / = ẖ 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 ẖ ~ / xʲ / : to them it sounded like their native consonant ḫ ~ /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).
Over at Polytheist.com 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 Polytheist.com 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.