Egyptian Moon Gods and their Connection to Calendars and Writing

The World Egg and the God's Body that Created the Universe

In a previous article, we spoke of the goose that laid the egg that separated heaven and earth, and from which the god Re was born, and that it was intimately connected with the sun.  The following gives a good overview:
The world egg, cosmic egg or mundane egg is a mythological motif found in the creation myths of many cultures and civilizations. Typically, the world egg is a beginning of some sort, and the universe or some primordial being comes into existence by "hatching" from the egg, sometimes lain on the primordial waters of the Earth . . . 
The Orphic Egg in the Ancient Greek Orphic tradition is the cosmic egg from which hatched the primordial hermaphroditic deity Phanes/Protogonus (variously equated also with Zeus, Pan, Metis, Eros, Erikepaios and Bromius) who in turn created the other gods. The egg is often depicted with a serpent wound around it . . .
In the original myth concerning the Ogdoad, the world arose from the waters as a mound of dirt, which was deified as Hathor. Ra was contained within an egg laid upon this mound by a celestial bird. In the earliest version of this myth, the bird is a goose (it is not explained where the goose originates). However, after the rise of the cult of Thoth, the egg was said to have been a gift from Thoth and laid by an ibis, the bird with which he was associated . . . 
. . . "the cosmogony of Taautus, whom Philo of Byblos explicitly identified with the Egyptian Thoth—"the first who thought of the invention of letters, and began the writing of records"— which begins with Erebus and Wind, between which Eros 'Desire' came to be. From this was produced Môt which seems to be the Phoenician/Ge'ez/Hebrew/Arabic/Ancient Egyptian word for 'Death' but which the account says may mean 'mud'. In a mixed confusion, the germs of life appear, and intelligent animals called Zophasemin (explained probably correctly as 'observers of heaven') formed together as an egg, perhaps. The account is not clear. Then Môt burst forth into light and the heavens were created and the various elements found their stations. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_egg)
Here is a representation of the Orphic Egg with the serpent wrapped around it:


In the previous articles, we saw the connection between this myth and the game Mehen.  It is also true that in some myths, the goose is the Egyptian god of the earth, Geb.  In some of these creation myths, a god dies and his the body parts become various parts of the world

Professor D. L. Ashliman received his PhD from Rutgers University.  Ashliman presented the following about the Norse Creation myth:
Where heat and cold met appeared thawing drops, and this running fluid grew into a giant frost ogre named Ymir . . . Buri begot a son named Bor, and Bor married Bestla, the daughter of a giant . . . Bor and Bestla had three sons: Odin was the first, Vili the second, and Vé the third . . . Odin, Vili, and Vé killed the giant Ymir . . . The sons of Bor then carried Ymir to the middle of Ginnungagap and made the world from him. From his blood they made the sea and the lakes; from his flesh the earth; from his hair the trees; and from his bones the mountains. They made rocks and pebbles from his teeth and jaws and those bones that were broken . . . From Ymir's skull the sons of Bor made the sky and set it over the earth with its four sides. Under each corner they put a dwarf, whose names are East, West, North, and South.  The sons of Bor flung Ymir's brains into the air, and they became the clouds. (http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/creation.html)
The Eyes of the Gods:  The Sun and the Moon

Pangu is the creator god in some versions of Chinese mythology.  His myth seems typical of the myths about the world egg, as we saw above, and shares a lot in common with the Myth of Odin and Ymir.  It seems clear that all of these myths probably have a common origin:
In the beginning there was nothing in the universe except a formless chaos. This chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg . . . Pangu emerged (or woke up) from the egg . . . Pangu began creating the world . . . creating the Earth (murky Yin) and the Sky (clear Yang). To keep them separated, Pangu stood between them and pushed up the Sky . . . Pangu died. His breath became the wind, mist and clouds; his voice, thunder; his left eye, the sun; his right eye, the moon; his head, the mountains and extremes of the world; his blood, rivers; his muscles, fertile land; his facial hair, the stars and Milky Way; his fur, bushes and forests; his bones, valuable minerals; his bone marrow, sacred diamonds; his sweat, rain; and the fleas on his fur carried by the wind became animals. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangu)
There is an association of the eyes of a god with the moon and the sun sometimes in various cultures, and in Egypt, the sun and the moon were considered eyes of the god Horus.  In the case of the Norse gods, it was Odin.  Odin lost one of his eyes in myth, just as Horus.

Also, in some posts, we saw that the wedjat eye, an eye of a god, is at the center of the game of Mehen, in some surviving versions of the game:



Kierra Foley is currently a PhD student at the University of Chicago in Egyptian Art and Archaeology in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. She graduated with a B.A. in Near Eastern Studies and the History of Art from Johns Hopkins.  Foley writes:
Wedjat eyes could be either left or right eyes, the left lunar eye being that of the powerful falcon-headed god, Horus, and the right solar eye being that of the sun god, Re. The “eye of completion” (the Horus eye) is lunar because, like the moon, it waxes and wanes. The lunar eye of Horus, as the eye of completion, is a healing and regenerative entity, thought to bring health and safety to its wearer. Likewise, the regenerative eye of Horus was thought to help the dead pass safely into the afterlife, and wedjat eye amulets were commonly placed within mummy wrappings to help the dead. In one myth, Horus presents his healed eye (repaired by the god of wisdom, Thoth) to his deceased father, the lord of the netherworld, Osiris, to help him pass safely into his afterlife.
The right wedjat eye, the solar eye of Re, was thought to be embodied by a vengeful but protective feline goddess. Like the Horus eye, the eye of Re was thought of as protective entity. Her ferocity warded away evil, protecting those who used the image apotropaically. (http://archaeologicalmuseum.jhu.edu/the-collection/object-stories/ancient-egyptian-amulets/wedjat-eyes/)
As we saw, the eye of Horus is symbolic of the Moon, and was called the "eye of completion," waxing and waning, the way the Moon does in its phases.  While it is true that Horus, in this way, was in some ways a Lunar god, there are other important myths with other Egyptian gods in their association with the Moon.

Sensen, the Meeting of the Two Bulls or the Sun and the Moon

In the Lunar cycle, the most important day was the meeting of the Sun and the Moon in the sky:
The opposition of the Sun and Moon in the sky on the fifteenth or sixteenth day of the month was the most important moment of the lunar cycle. This is evidenced by inscriptions at temples in Edfu, Dendera and Karnak. This moment in time was known as "the uniting of the two bulls", and was described in the New Kingdom Osireion at Abydos. A ritual in later temples was celebrated with the offering of two mirrors, symbolizing the two lights at this precise moment. The moment symbolized the rejuvenation of the sun god Amun-Re at Thebes, and also in the Dakhleh Oaisis, when his son and successor, the moon god Khonsu, received his heritage of cosmic rule. (http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/moon.htm#ixzz48gEwfRek)
Of this conjunction in the heavens between the Sun and the Moon, one Egyptian inscription reads:
"A revered one on Half-Month Day, who illuminates the land on the night of his Lord, a light in the sky, the deputy of the sun, great of radiance, shining one, who associates with his father on Sensen-Kawy . . ." (http://oi.uchicago.edu/pdf/oip103.pdf, The University of Chicago Oriental Institute Publications, Volume 103, The Temple of Khonsu--Volume 2, Scenes and Inscriptions in the Court and the First Hypostyle Hall With Translations of Texts and Glossary for Volumes 1 and 2, Plate 115 A, p. 4)
And, there is a footnote there on that page for the phrase Sensen-Kawy, which reads:
"The Conjunction of the Two Bulls" . . . identified as a day on which both the moon and the sun are visible in the sky.
Michael Rice is well known for his work in the planning and designing of museums throughout the Arabian peninsula. He is also the highly respected author with books on archaeology.  He writes:
The two bulls also appear in a group (H.12) which is spelled sensen, a festival of the conjunction of the sun and the moon in the month of Epiphi, when the two celestial bodies were shown as bulls, though in other contexts they could be represented by quite other animals.  (The Power of the Bull, by Michael Rice, p. 147.)
As the reader can see, the meeting of the two "bulls" in the sky was called "Sensen."  This has an interesting connection with the game Mehen.  Remember, in a previous article, we saw that the breath of the snake Mehen was what brought resurrection.  The verb sensen, in Egyptian, means to breathe.  But there is a wordplay here with these two celestial bodies.  Because the word sensen, depending on context, means meeting, conjunction, fellowship, and embrace.  The most important point of the Egyptian temple ceremony was when an initiate meets in embrace with a god.  This is "sensen," to be in fellowship.  As the Book of Sensen says, it is to "breathe" with the gods.

The Two Bulls (or Two Lions) and Mehen

This occurrence is cyclical and astronomical, happening every month, perhaps showing the associations with calendrical matters.  Timothy Kendall is an Archaeologist of Northeastern University, and a Historian of Ancient Egypt and Sudan.  He wrote that some of the game pieces of the Mehen game are lions.  (Mehen: The Ancient Egyptian Game of the Serpent, by Timothy Kendall.)


Carol Andrews, member of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities at the British Museum is an expert on Egyptian amulets.  She wrote the following, in connection to the "two bulls":
. . . [I]n the MacGregor list the double lion is portrayed and named hns (khenes).  Yet this is a word meaning 'traverse' or 'travel across' which appears in much earlier hieroglyphic texts determined by a sign in the shape of two bull's foreparts back to back.  In fact glazed-composition double bull amulets in exactly this form are found in the Twenty-sixth Dynasty and later.  To prove the connection between the two types there are even contemporary glazed-composition amulets in which one forepart is a bull's and the other a lion's.  Yet double bull amulets are also known which have a full and crescent moon nestling over their backs.  Moreover, a third form, which first appears in the Third Intermediate Period, represents double rams, and in the Late Dynastic examples suspension is by a loop behind so that a full moon with a crescent can lie over the animal's backs. (Carol Andrews, Amulets of ancient Egypt, p. 90)
The word khenes(hns) seems to be related to the Proto-Indo-European root mhnes from whence our words moon, month, and the Spanish mes (month) is derived (see http://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Proto-Indo-European/m%E1%B8%97h%E2%82%81n%CC%A5s).  It is believed that this root mhnes derives from the root meh, that means "to measure."  Some descendants of this word are mēnesis ‎("month") and mēness ‎("moon") in Latvian.  *mḗns in Hellenic. Mínasmḗsmeús and mênnos in various flavors of Greek.  *mēns- in Italic.  Mes ("month") in Spanish.  In English, our words moon and month are also derived from this.  In the preceding quote, the full moon with the crescent was mentioned as being associated with the double-lion/double-bull amulets.

In the cave of Lascaux, interestingly, there are two bulls that intertwine:


One of the bulls has a red color all over its back, denoting how it would look at a certain part of the year.  And so, it has calendrical significance, symbolizing the position of the sun at a certain season of the year.  The other bull, not having this red color, symbolizes the position of the sun at another season of the year.  Following these types of facts, Chantal Jègues-Wolkiewiez has identified this as part of a possible extremely ancient Zodiac.

It seems more than a coincidence that in a previous article, we found a calendrical significance for both the Senent and Mehen Game boards.  While it has been shown that in Egyptian, the derivation for the word Mehen (mhn) means "to coil," or "the coiled one," there can be little doubt that this Indo-European root mhns is connected by association, even if there is not a literal etymological connection.

Khonsu the Chronographer

In Egypt, as we saw, the word hns is associated with the Moon, in that the Moon, as the "Traveler," travels across the sky.  The name of one of the Egyptian gods, a god of the Moon, is named Khonsu.  It is now generally accepted that his name derives from hns.  Khonsu is closely associated with Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing, which is also an Egyptian moon god in some contexts.  Khonsu was thought of as the "pendulum of heaven," and the "divider of months," and is therefore a "chronographer," he who is the time tracker and recorder.  This is because the regular cycles of the Moon were the basis of the Egyptian calendar, with twelve months making a lunar year.  It should be noted as well that in myth, Khonsu is portrayed as a lover of the game Senet.

Hugh Nibley writes the following about Khonsu:
It was Khonsu who turned death to life--the patron of Egyptian medical doctors . . . Posener emphasizes the element of heavenly motion in the Khonsu image: as the god "travels throughout the earth (hns s3t.w)," so the dead, following his lead, "removes himself (hns) like Khonsu and scintillates (h3b3s) like the stars (h3b3s)."  Posener, however, does not reject the other interpretation of the name which it derives it h-n-nsw.t)"--that is, the son of Pharoah.
It is entirely fitting and proper that the Breathings text should conduct on the pool of Knosu . . . Khonsu brings life-restoring breath; he is nothing less than "the windpipe of Amun," and his lake is the gateway to heaven . . . Paul Barguet designates Khonsu as “the moon god, who dies and is reborn periodically; he is a nocturnal sun, an inanimate form, not manifest, a potential force”—in which sense he is exactly like Sokar, “the dormant power of nature.”  His crown, combining new moon and full moon, shows that he is the lunar “point-mort,” as Sokar is the solar solstice; Khonsu, says Gertrud Thausing, is “Beginning and Ending!” . . . Finally, the pool of Khonsu, if it is to be a water of rebirth, is also a water of purification . . . Taking Khonsu's many functions and offices altogether, he may perhaps be best characterized as the great go-between, the intermediary, the officiant in the mysteries, sharing that essential character with Thoth as the moon-god.  (Hugh Nibley, Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, Second Edition, pp. 422-423)
Just like Mehen, Khonsu is associated with the life-bringing breath.  He is the windpipe of Amun, associated with resurrection.  He is the Beginning and the Ending, having the association with the "two bulls," where the Zodiac begins and ends.  With the Solar Zodiac, it begins at Aries and ends at Taurus.  In the myths, Khonsu was a great lover of the game Senet.

Thoth, the Moon God and God of Writing

Khonsu was considered to be a form of Thoth in Thebes, and just like Thoth, Khonsu was associated with the baboon.

Thoth was the scribe of the gods, and to him is credited the invention of writing hieroglyphs.  Thoth had a special kind of magic, because writing to the Egyptians had an intrinsic magic.  Professor Scott B. Noegel and Professor Kasia Szpakowska write:  "Since some words were deemed as inherently powerful (whether in written or spoken form), manipulating them constituted an act of potentially serious consequence . . ."  And it was considered a "tool of ritual power."  ("'Word Play' in the Ramesside Dream Manual," Studien Zur Altagyptischen Kultur, Hamburg Germany, 2006, pp. 194-197).

The sacredness of what we know today as the alphabet did not start out that way, but rather, it was the written record of hieroglyphics that was specifically sacred to the Egyptians, having this "intrinsic power" to them.

David Frankfurter, PhD,  at Boston University, is a scholar of ancient Mediterranean religions.  Frankfurter quotes Plato:
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, through 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 will 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 the 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 Frankfurther writes:
It is an odd scenario and probably would have struck an Egyptian priest as quite unfamiliar.  For to the Egyptians Thoth was a scribe, lord of the hieroglyph that symbolized ideas, acts, powers, and often consonants, but not vowels.  Thoth's very utterances were physical, efficacious things, not the supernal notes and chords that Plato imagined.
Then Frankfurter goes on to say that "Still, the Greek penchant for mystic origins would not let up . . ."  Then he says that Diodorus Siculus asserted that Thoth invented the alphabet.  And then he quotes Diodorus Siculus saying that Thoth:
. . . was the first also to observe the orderly arrangement of the stars and the harmony of the musical sounds and their nature . . . He also made a lyre and gave it three strings, imitating the seasons of the year; for he adopted three tones, a high, a low and a medium . . .
Then Frankfurter comments on this saying:
Didorus 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.  Thoth's contribution to the cosmos was the "divine word," referring to pictures endowed with power to protect and transform the world or to unfold as instructions for the world's creation and maintenance.
This projection of Greek alphabetic ingenuity onto Thoth was not so much a process of interpretatio graeca as a kind of "Egyptianism"--the romantic attribution of whatever was mysterious, powerful, and ancient in character to Egypt and its fabulous gods . . . But Egyptian priestly groups may themselves have lent credence to Greek Egyptianism, since it was they who, during the first centuries of the Common Era, were adopting vowels--and the Greek alphabet as a whole--to improve the pronunciation of their own ritual texts . . .
. . . [I]n Egypt the medium was the message--the writing by its very nature was efficacious, not just the content.
The pictographic nature of Egyptian hieroglyphic writing made it quite distinct from the Greek alphabet of phonetic characters.  On seeing hieroglyphic texts on walls or papyrus one is immediately struck by the visual continuity between pictographic and writing and iconographic illustrations.  Not only are actual characters shared, but quite often hieroglyphs themselves carried ideographic or logographic meaning:  the character signified the word, or an entire idea or cosmic force.  While phonetic writing with hieroglyphs had developed from these ideographic signs, the characters themselves remained pictographic: animals, people and objects.  Moreover, in ritual texts the individual characters continued to carry the kind of concrete power imputed to iconographic symbols . . .
A recent introduction to hieroglyphic writing stresses "its capacity because of its pictorial and unrestricted nature, to be exploited for purposes other than straightforward linguistic communication."  Writing with pictographs allowed a degree of scribal self-consciousness unattainable with the simple phonetic sign of an alphabet . . .
Thus, in contrasted to the Greek system, whose characters had evolved expressly to replicate the spoken word, the pictographs of hieroglyphic writing could reify their subjects as well as the order of things expressed.  By the very nature of the "word" and its letters, a continuum existed between the signified object, name, or deity, the writing of the word, and the very characters on stone or papyrus that spelled out the word . . .
It was the god Thoth who stood over this concept of the "word of power," mythically bridging the vocal and the written modes of efficacy . . . (The Magic of Writing and the Writing of Magic:  The Power of the Word in Egyptian and Greek Traditions, in Helios, vol. 21, no. 2, 1994)
So, as we had seen in previous articles in this series, writing did not start out with a phonetic alphabet.  Rather, it started out with three-dimensional tokens, which evolved into hieroglyphics.  These hieroglyphics were seen as having intrinsic magic and power by the Egyptians.  However, in   Frankfurter's analysis, it is seen that in the era of the Greco-Roman period, the Egyptians started to adopt the Greek alphabet, and used it as an alphabet.  Eventually, in that era it was even specifically modified for use (as well as some modified demotic characters) with the late Egyptian language dialects known as Coptic.  And, at first, in the Greek Magical Papyri, Egyptians used the Greek language and Greek alphabet, and also wrote many of them in Coptic.  The Egyptians idolized hieroglyphics as if they were containers for magical power.  And later, they came to believe the same thing about Greek vowels.  It was in the Hermetic traditions where the cult of Thoth flourished, or a derivitive thereof.  Hermes Trimestigus, as he was known, is a Greco-Roman syncretism of both Hermes and Thoth.  The evidence shows that both Hermes and Thoth were the gods of writing in their respective original cultures, and it was natural in this environment that those two gods would become fused.  The Hermetic tradition and other hybridizations flourished among the Egyptian magical and gnostic sects, such as for example, the Basilideans.  They were a Gnostic sect that worshiped Abraxas or Abrasax (both versions being a play on words for the name of the same god).   In this current author's view, this syncretism or hybridization between Egyptian and Greek ideas probably centered in Alexandria, as the major seat of knowledge in the ancient world, where Thoth-ism or Hermeticism reigned.

Frankfurter also makes not of what are called "carakters," or magical drawings in the Greek Magical Papyri that also took on this same type of magical significance.

Now, keep in mind that it was Thoth that presided over the Greek vowels in this hybrid system, where the vowels now contained this magic that the hieroglyphics used to contain.  Frankfurter notes that this "vowel mysticism and incantations" and related practices "arose from Greek philosophical mysticism which regarded the vowels as uniquely powerful stoicheia--utterable symbols of cosmic forces and their corresponding sounds."
Through centuries of Orphic and Pythagorean speculation on the cosmic nature of "true" sounds and planetary harmonies, there developed a notion that humans might participate in those harmonies through ritually "singing" the vowels . . .
In late antiquity, vowel liturgies were taken up by Christians such as Clement of Alexandria as expressions of God's nature (Rev[elation] 1:8's Alpha and Omega) or the name (the mysterious vowel-less Tetragrammation of the Jewish Bible, YHWH), and by more eclectic religious sects as a suprahuman language or means of transcendence . . .
The vowel liturgies, it seems, expressed a certain conviction in and longing for a "perfect order" in the heavens . . . Thus Patricia Cox Miller . . . has suggested that the use of vowels and voces magica was intended to transcend not only writing but speech itself, whether through deliberate composition of "spiritual sounds" or as a mimesis of actual glossolalia.
This vowel-based glossolalia was the ultimate form of aleatoricism and eclecticism in both writing and music, in an attempt to transcend all.  And of course, as we saw in a previous article, it was in the prayer circles and ring dances where this glossolalia was performed.  It was in the Greek Magical Papyri where this glossolalia was written.  Thus, they were essentially becoming one with the cosmos and with God.  They were becoming Sensen, or joined, with God and the cosmos through their aleatoric performances of the magic of the alphabet, and through their dances and movements that symbolically "performed" the movements of the heavens and re-enacted the movements of the planets and symbolized the signs of the zodiac.  In paganism, it was Thoth/Hermes Trimestigus that presided over the power these letters from the alphabet.  In Christian Egypt, after Christianity took over, it was Christ as IAO that now presided over the power of the letters.  As was seen above, and in previous articles in this series, certain Christians and other eclectic (gnostic) groups were representing the god Yahweh with the vowel representation of his name (IAOUE).  Some gnostic sects shortened this as IAO.  It is interesting that the Jewish Encyclopedia says:
It was in connection with magic that the Tetragrammaton was introduced into the magic papyri and, in all probability, into the writings of the Church Fathers, these two sources containing the following forms, written in Greek letters: (1) "Iaoouee," "Iaoue," "Iabe,"; (2) "Iao," "Iaho," "Iae"; (3) "Aia"; (4) "Ia." . . . "Iabe" is designated as the Samaritan pronunciation. There are external and internal grounds for this assumption; for the very agreement of the Jewish, Christian, heathen, and Gnostic statements proves that they undoubtedly give the actual pronunciation . . . The "mystic quadriliteral name" . . . was well known to the Gnostics, as is shown by the fact that the third of the eight eons of one of their systems of creation was called "the unpronounced," the fourth "the invisible," and the seventh "the unnamed," terms which are merely designations of the Tetragrammaton . . . Even the Palestinian Jews had inscribed the letters of the Name on amulets . . . ; and, in view of the frequency with which the appellations of foreign deities were employed in magic, it was but natural that heathen magicians should show an especial preference for this "great and holy name," knowing its pronunciation as they knew the names of their own deities.  (http://jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/14346-tetragrammaton)
A possible connection to this practice may have originated would be the principle that is known as Materes Lectiones, which means that in some alphabets, certain "consonants" sometimes represent vowel sounds, or that over time, a pronunciation of something that originated as a consonant is transformed into a vowel.  This may explain the origin of the vowels in the Greek alphabet.

It is possible that the Tetragrammation may be a case of Materes Lectiones is with the Hebrew word Jehovah as the Tetragrammation (YHWH), with four letters thought to be consonants in most usages.  Hugh Nibley talks about various issues surrounding the tetragrammation.  He notes that these letters actually referred to four vowels, U-A-I-E, which were uttered by the high priest in the temple once a year.  (One Eternal Round, p. 257-258).

Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending.  Alpha and Omega are letters of the Greek Alphabet, and Christ is using them a symbols of himself in the Book of Revelation.