The Association of Senet and Mehen to Prayer Circles, Ring Dances and Zodiacs

Now, after laying the groundwork in the previous articles, we have shown how writing itself has its origin in three dimensional tokens which were used for economic purposes, divination purposes, ritual purposes and entertainment purposes.  In the ritual purposes, the tokens were used like game pieces, except the "games" in that religious context were serious rituals, not games.  In the entertainment context, these were just games to pass the time.

In our article discussing the games of Senet and Mehen, we established that these games, in a ritual context, have a very similar purpose to Temple Ritual.  In their ritual context, they were rituals that were essentially Endowments, going through the various stages of life and the afterlife and finally exaltation with the Sun god Re.  And so, the Senet Ritual brought the endowment to the common man, a version of the Endowment that an Egyptian commoner could enact on his own, where game pieces or tokens become actors in ritual, proxy stand-ins for Temple actors or participants.

We established in one of the previous articles that the game tokens in the rituals of Senet and Mehen were known as "dancers."  In the game of Mehen, the "dancers" would "dance" in a circular pattern around the wejat eye in some versions of the game.  It is a circumambulation of the dancers around the center.

Without going into unnecessary details here, those who have been to the LDS Temple knows that the Prayer Circle and certain other parts of the Endowment are in motion.  Hugh Nibley and other LDS scholars like Frederick M. Huchel have established that the ancient Christian Temple Endowment was a "Ring Dance," and was a re-enactment of the "Ring Dance of the Angels" in Heaven.

  Huchel writes:
Where did the angels dance? In heaven. It is a cosmic dance. Lucian says that the prototype of the dance is the universe, noting, “Dance was performed in a circle around the altar to reflect the motions of the cosmos, particularly the zodiac or the planets around the sun.” Gregory Thaumaturgus (210-260 A.D.) in referring to Jesus Christ, says, “The ring-dance of the angels encircles him, singing his glory in Heaven and proclaiming peace on earth.” (The Cosmic Ring-Dance of the Angels: An Early Christian Rite of the Temple,, emphasis added.)
This is the same as how the angels encircled the Lord while he was in their midst:
I dwell in the midst of them all; I now, therefore, have come down unto thee to declare unto thee the works which my hands have made, wherein my wisdom excelleth them all, for I rule in the heavens above, and in the earth beneath, in all wisdom and prudence, over all the intelligences thine eyes have seen from the beginning; I came down in the beginning in the midst of all the intelligences thou hast seen. (Abraham 3:21)
But, remember, that in the Book of Abraham, these "intelligences," or angels, were patterned after the order of heavenly bodies:
Now, if there be two things, one above the other, and the moon be above the earth, then it may be that a planet or a star may exist above it . . . Howbeit that he made the greater star; as, also, if there be two spirits, and one shall be more intelligent than the other, yet these two spirits, notwithstanding one is more intelligent than the other, have no beginning  . . . These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all.  (Abraham 3:17-19)
Further, Huchel notes that . . .
early Byzantine churches had a veil, preceding the iconostasis, which paralleled the Temple veil, and note that the “‘nine [angelic] orders in heaven’ parallel the ‘nine [priestly] orders in the Church,’” the nine canonical hours, and, we might add, the nine ancient concentric heavens. (emphasis added).
Here is a picture of Mehen and the god Re:

Peter A. Piccone, Phd, is an Egyptologist and is Associate Professor of Ancient Near Eeastern History at th eCollege of Charleston and University of Charleston, S.C.  About Mehen and the god Ra, Piccone writes:
These spells [i.e. in the Coffin Texts] depict a realm of the afterlife in which the bark of Mehen encircles nine concentric roads, four of which are specifically roads of fire, which it circumnavigates for millions of years.  In the vignette of the spell, the four roads of fire are depicted in red paint, and they alternate with five black roads . . . According to the texts, upon these roads of Mehen are "gates that turn away" . . . The sun god Ra, sits at the center of these roads on his throne of "millions of years," and he guards the gates of the roads . . . it is clear though that the object of the deceased here is to approach Ra at the center and not to be kept off by the dangers of the roads . . .
Further on Huchel writes this important observation:
The dance was meant to preserve or renew cosmic order. It was a recurring renewal of the bonds of the Cosmic Covenant. The dance of the cosmos has been traced back to ancient Egypt. According to Lois Ellfeldt, “Ranging around a fixed altar, which represented the sun, priests clad in brilliant costumes made signs for the zodiac with their hands, while turning rhythmically from east to west, following the course of the planets.”
The pattern of the game Senet, according to the research of some archaeologists, follows this same pattern, back and forth.  Eddie Duggan, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Arts and Humanities at the University Campus Suffolk (UCS), presents this picture of the back-and-forth S-pattern of the game-play of the Senet game:

(Ancient Board Games 1. The Royal Game of Ur and Senet,

The way the planets move from the standpoint of the earth (i.e. how they appear to move) is not in elliptical orbits around the sun, but rather, they move with "retrograde" motion.  This is where a planet appears to move in a wave-like pattern or S-shaped pattern in the sky.  The true reason for this as we know now, is because the earth in its orbit moves faster around the sun than the outer planets, thus creating this false appearance.  Still, the ancients were mimicking what they could see in the movements of the heavens above them.  Huchel then emphasizes that it is the ancient geocentric model of the cosmos that was the model that these thing:
I say again, the geocentric cosmos is the cosmos which was then — and is now —actually seen in the sky. The viewer is at the center of his cosmos. The temple lies at the center of its cosmos. The circle-dance necessarily takes place at the center of the cosmos of the participants. The cosmos of the circle-dance is the ancient, sacred, geocentric cosmos, the cosmos embodied in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the cathedral at Chartres, in Stonehenge, and in Westminster Abbey.
Huchel also notes that:
Nicoletta Isar says that “With the creation of the universe the dance too came into being, which signifies the union of the elements. The round dance . . . of the stars, the constellation of planets in relation to the fixed stars, the beautiful order and harmony in all its movements, is a mirror of the original dance at the time of creation.” . . .  According to Honorius, “In their ring dances they thought of the rotation of the firmament; in the clasping of their hands the union of the elements; in the sounds of song the harmony of the planets; in the gestures of the body the movements of the celestial bodies . . .”35 (emphasis added)
The word "mirror" as it is used here refers to the idea that the ring dance is a re-enactment of the dance of the angels at the time of creation.  Huchel also makes mention of the "circle on Salisbury Plain, to which Geoffrey of Monmouth gave the name 'The Giants’ Dance.'"  And also, he mentions "a most fascinating survival of the ancient circle dance, the Byzantine chorós, a great chandelier, patterned on the ancient cosmos, which hangs below the dome of the church, and is whirled at Easter . . ."  This is clearly represented in LDS Temples as well, with the great chandeliers in our Celestial Rooms in our temples, which some people have also associated with the structure of the cosmos.  This structure, is like the circumambulation of stars around the pole-star, where the pole-star is like an altar, or center of the geocentric cosmos, as the earth rotates.  The Pole-star is that which does not move, in the geocentric heaven.

Huchel also brings up the idea of the "Music of the Spheres," which is the ancient idea that all planets and heavenly spheres emit vibrations or sounds, and that they make music in this way.  The ancient belief was that it was the music which accompanied the creation hymn "when the morning stars sang together and when the sons of God shouted for joy" as in Job 38:7.  Once again, the parallelism between the stars and the angels are manifest in this verse.  Kaheenos is a Greek word used to represent this music, but it also means "a chant."  Certainly, the true order of prayer associated with the prayer circle, for those familiar with it, could be described in this way.  Revelation 5:9 mentioning a "new song" may refer to this, according to Huchel.  He says it is the song sung by the choros ("choir" or "chorus") of dancers in the ring dance.  Huchel claims that he evidence shows that the form of the dance was a slow, repetitive type of movement, because it was a "dance of prayer."

As to this "song" in the ring dance, some of it is said at times to be in a "strange language" or "strange tongue" according to Hugh Nibley, in his article The Ancient Christian Prayer Circle.  He writes:
Almost all accounts mention the introduction of the prayer as being in a strange language, a triple formula of words resembling each  other. Thus in 1 Jeu after they form the circle, Jesus "begins a hymn which appears to be meaningless, a speaking in tongues, a glossolalia."  In the Pistis Sophia also, the Lord, having formed the apostles and their wives in a circle around him and "taking the place of Adam at the altar, called upon the Father three times in an unknown tongue." Elsewhere the text explains how whole they stood "all in white, each with the cipher of the name of the Father in his hand, Jesus prayed in a strange language," beginning with the words Iao, aoi, oia! which, we are told, meant "Hear me Father, the Father of all fatherhood, boundless light!" According to our source, "This is the interpretation: Iota, because everything came out of (began with) it; Alpha because everything will return to it; Omega because everything is process (lit. the fulfilling of all fulfilling).
In another version, when the Lord "ordered the Twelve to make a prayer circle and join him in a tripe Amen and hymn to the Father and Creator of all treasure," he began by saying "ie, ie, ie, calling upon the Father to create beings to be the Lords of every treasure, and as such to bear the name of their Father Jeu, who has replenished the treasuries with countless spirits and degrees of glory." When Abraham, according to and old and highly respected source, "rebuilt the altar of Adam in order to bring a sacrifice to the Eternal One," as he had been instructed by an angel, he raised his voice in prayer, saying: "El ,El, El! Jaoel! [the last meaning Jehovah] . . . receive the words of my prayer! Receive the sacrifice which I have made at the command! Have mercy, show me, teach me, give to the servant the light and knowledge thou hast promised to send him!" . . . When Adam and Eve found themselves cut off from the glory of the Lord, according to the intriguing Combat of Adam, they stood with upstretched  hands calling upon the Lord, as "Adam began to pray in a language which is unintelligible to us."  The so‑called Coptic Gnostic Writing purports to give  us Adam's words on the occasion as being composed of the elements io‑i‑a and i‑oy‑el, meaning "God is with us forever and ever," and "through the power of revelation."  . . . When Mary asks the Lord "tell me your highest name!" "He, standing in the midst of a cloud of light, said, 'He, Elohe, Elohe, Elohe; Eran, Eran, Eran; Rafon, Rafon, Rafon; Raqon, Raqon, Raqon,'" etc., etc.  . . .
[T]he Lord on the Cross called upon the Father in a strange tongue: those who were standing by . . . disagreed as to the meaning (see Mark 15:33ff.) . . . It recalls the cry of distress of David in Psalms 54:2. . .and on Psalms 55:1 . . .
David Frankfurter, PhD at Boston University, who is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions wrote the following interesting commentary on this type of phenomenon of so-called glossolalia or speaking in unknown tongues with regard to the Greco-Roman time period, when the Egyptian and Greek worldviews started to merge in religion.  He writes:
. . . [A]ccording to the third-century Alexandrian Christian Origen, "Certain sounds and syllables which are pronouced with or without aspiration, with either long or short vowel-sound, control those who are invoked, probably by some natural power imperceptable to us" . . .
. . . [T]he Coptic (originally Greek) Discourse on the Eighth and the Ninth, in which the initiate "calls your name that is hidden within me A Ω EE ΩΩ HHH ΩΩΩ III OOOOO ΩΩΩΩΩΩ ΥΥΥΥΥΥΥ ΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩΩ" . . .
. . . PGM V instructs the ritualist to pronounce "the e(psilon) like a baboon [kynokephalisti] [and] the o(micron) as before," and . . . PGM IV invokes Horus to "appear to me, lord, because I call upon you as the three baboons call upon you, who speak your holy name in a symbolic fashion, A EE HHH IIII OOOOO YYYYYY ΩΩΩΩΩΩ--speak as a baboon" . . . [This] could have derived derived fed from an Egyptian liturgical practice of "vowelic" hymns, which came to be understood as the ritualized pronunciation of the seven vowels. (
Frankfurter notes that the Baboon is the symbol of the Egyptian god Thoth, a god of the Moon and of writing.  Frankfurter writes earlier on in the same article quoting Plato that there was:
a person in Egypt called Theuth . . . originally discerned the existence, in that unlimited variety, of the vowels--not 'vowel' in the singular, but 'vowels' in the plural--and then of other things which, though they could not be called articulate sounds, yet were noises of a kind.  There were a number of them too, not just one, and as a third class he discriminated what we now call the mutes.  Having done that, he divided up the noiseless ones or mutes until he got each one by itself, and did the same thing with the vowels and the intermediate sounds; in the end he found a number of things, and affixed to the whole collection, as to each single member of it, the name 'letter.'  It was because he realized that none of us could ever get to know one of the collection all by itself, in isolation from all the rest, that he conceived of 'letter' as a kind of bond of unity, uniting as it were all these sounds into one, and so he gave utterance to the expression 'art of letters,' implying that there was one art that dealt with the sounds.
Then Frankfurter goes on to write that Diodorus Siculus not only thought that Thoth invented the alphabet but, quoting Diodorus:
. . . was the first also to observe the orderly arrangement of the stars and the harmony of the musical sounds of their nature. . . . He also made a lyre and gave it three strings, imitating the seasons of the year; for he adpoted three tones, a high, a low and a medium . . .
Commenting on this, Frankfurter writes:
Diodorus had quite obviously turned Thoth into Orpheus--similarly renowned in Greece for inventing letters, but not letters as visual symbols so much as cosmic tones.
Its not that the Egyptians themselves in the early time period ascribed all of this to Thoth.  In the Greco-Roman time period, there was a time of hybridization between Egyptian and Greek beliefs in the Mediterranean world.  And so, one  can see an emergent tradition in that period ascribing the Music of the Spheres to Thoth, and an emergent association with the Greek letters of the Alphabet to Thoth, especially with the vowels that were so prevalent in the "mystic" or "unintelligible speech" manifest within the tradition of the ring dance, which were associated with the "Music of the Spheres."  In other articles the author will go into this connection with the Alphabet more fully, but for now, let us just make note of these basic facts here.