Friday, February 28, 2014

Kolob Character Comparisons, Visual Affinities and Mythological Background


This is is the character from the Sensen Papyrus identified as "Kolob" in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar.  Here is the location on the papyrus of this character (encircled in red):

Next, here are some comparisons:

Notice the apparent visual puns here.  Now, in this image, on the top, we have character #1 from Facsimile #2, identified as Kolob.  We have the same character from the Sensen Papyrus to the left on the bottom again.  Now on the bottom in the middle, we have the drawing of this character from the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, which Joseph Smith identified as Kolob.  And finally, on the bottom to the right, we have the character from Facsimile #2 cut in half, rather than in mirror-image.  As you can see, the double headed ram god here which is Khnum-Ra in mechanical Egyptian is a mirror-image character, where that which on the left is an image of that which is on the right.  It has a visual affinity to this other character identified as Kolob in the Egyptian Alphabet, except that is not a mirror image character.

Now, visually compare this from another Hypocephalus that is kept in the British Museum with these other images above:

Now you can see what I'm talking about.even more clearly, right?  A clear visual pun.  You can see in this case, the seated Khnum-Ra/Kolob character more immediately resembles the pictures above that show how this form is visually shared between these characters.  In this particular hypocephalus, we have four rams heads in the Kolob figure, which is linked with Aries, which is directly linked with Alpha/Aleph and the Sun.  Aries is the Solar-Zodiacal equivalent to Aleph in the Semitic Alphabet, and linked to the Ox-head glyph that was used to represent Aleph pictographically from the Egyptian hieroglyphics in the Proto-Sinaitic (the original Semitic Alphabet, that contained re-purposed Egyptian Glyphs:

Here again is another high-res image from the KEP with the character plainly showing Kolob next to it with a few other characters transcribed from the columns of the Sensen Papyrus:

As Michael Rhodes shows, this character in the columns in the Sensen Papyrus has a hieroglyphic version.  In the Egyptian Alphabet, is the character for "woman" (Gardiner's sign list B1) in the name Taykhebyt, the mother of the owner of the papyrus, Hor.  It is the determinative (context-helper) that marks her as a woman.  It is also the hieroglyph used for "queen."  Here is the hieroglyphic:

(Image credit:

As you can see, part of the reason this hieroglyph was chosen in the Egyptian Alphabet is because of its visual affinities to the Khnum-Ra character.  But this is not the whole reason.
First, the name Khnum is a pun on the Egyptian word for woman, Kemet (the T being the feminine ending of the word).  Because the Kh and the K are in the word, and the M is in the word, therefore being a sounding-similar kind of pun between the names.
Next, there is the visual pun we pointed out between the images of Khnum and the woman glyph.  However, also, the fact that the woman is shown in sitting/squatting position is important.  This is, of course, because it is connected with the birth (creation) process:

(Image credit:

This is a picture of a woman in childbirth, in the squatting position, being assisted by the goddesses Hathor and Taweret, taking the place of the baboons.  We read:

As in all areas of daily life, the gods of Egypt were connected to the birth process. The creator-god Khnum gave health to the newborn after birth. Women would place two small statues for the gods Bes and Taweret. The dwarf-god Bes was supposed to vanquish any evil things hovering around the mother and baby. The chief deity of women in pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, was the pregnant hippopotamus-goddess Taweret, often carrying a magic knife or the knot of Isis. (

Just as Hathor and Taweret have the round circles above their heads, and are on either side of the woman in childbirth, Khnum-Ra in Facsimile #2 has the baboons with the circles above their heads on either side.

Since I originally posted this post, I added another post, where toward the end, it shows the connection between childbirth and the the sky goddess Nut, which is directly connected to this.  What I'm talking about is toward the end of this post at this location:

As I observed in that post, the Egyptologist Miatello observed:

The paths leading the sun to the rebirth in the middle of the two skies (N. and S.) are depicted around the rectangle, and, in variants of Xnm.t wr. . . As the Sun evolves in the uterus of his mother, the concept of sun disk merges with that of disk of the sky. This explains the label of the disk “united with the great one”: the object is both the belly of Nut, in light pink color, and the sun, in yellow. Such a symbolism is re-proposed in late periods with the hypocephalus, which represents the sun disk, and whose central scene depicts the solar rebirth between the lower and upper sky. The sun disk merges with the belly of Nut in a scene on the internal base of the Ptolemaic coffin of Tanethep (Louvre D39). Nut is depicted naked, with her belly shaped as the sun disk. Both the womb and the breasts of the goddess are likened to the sun disk. The three sun disks in her body, representing three stages of the solar cycle, are evoked by three Sn signs above her head . . .
(See the other post for the information on the source of the quote.)  And here is the picture Miatello supplied:

So, its like a chant, above her head, with her arms upward, with the word Sen, three times:  Sen, Sen, Sen.  And as you can see, the belly and breasts are the sun hieroglyph.

As a side note, it is interesting that our own words Sun and Shine are derived from a word very similar to Sen.  Here is the derivation:
Old English sunne, from Proto-Germanic *sunnon (cf. Old Norse, Old Saxon, Old High German sunna, Middle Dutch sonne, Dutch zon, German Sonne, Gothic sunno), from PIE *s(u)wen- (cf. Avestan xueng "sun," Old Irish fur-sunnud "lighting up"), alternative form of root *saewel- "to shine, sun" (see Sol ).  (
As you can see, the derivation of this comes from the Pre-Indo-European root that *s(u)wen- which is manifest in the Avestan (Aryan) xueng (shueng), which is a cognate to the Egyptian Sen.

Anyhow, again, here are the forms of the Sun Hieroglyph supplied by Miatello:

Form 4 is the hypocephalus form itself with its outer rim.  And they are connected with these forms of the Oroboros, or snake-encircled character, like the Egyptian game of Mehen:

Here is a version of the sun god encircled by the snake:

Remember the game Mehen looks like this:

And now look at the Kolob Hieroglyph from the hypocephalus that we showed above here again:

Do you see the snake to the left that is encircled?  Here it is as a close-up:

In our own hypocephalus in Facsimile 2, we have two snakes on either side of Khnum-Ra between him and the baboons.  Here is another picture with the double-sided/mirror image Khnum-Ra with the encircled snakes on either side from another hypocephalus:

So, remember, Khnum-Ra is the god of creation, and above is the hieroglyph of a woman in the birth process.  Khnum gives health to the baby.  Remember, in the explanation for Facsimile #2, Character 1, Kolob is the First Creation.  The theme between the characters that Joseph Smith identified as Kolob is consistent, both in Facsimile #2, as well as in the Sensen Papyrus.  Clearly, the word Kolob is a Semitic word meaning, near, center, etc. that was an acrophonic assignment to this character, inasmuch as Kolob is the first creation, not to mention the fact that Khnum also starts with a K/Kh sound.  This is directly connected to the goddess Nut of the sky, who has the sun hieroglyphs as her breasts and belly.

Here is a link to something that a former LDS apologist named Kerry Shirts once wrote on Khnum-Ra:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Proto-Sinaitic Ho (He) and Joseph Smith's Ho-ha-oop

So, here is the character that Joseph Smith assigned an H sound from the Hor Sensen Papyrus:


In the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, Joseph Smith called this character HoHaOop.  the following is the location of this character on the Sensen Papyrus (encircled in red):

Now, in the Proto-Sinaitic, there is this character:

(Image credit:

Of course, in their translation as "hurrah", they mean an exclamation to express joy or approval.  Others have expressed it as a "man calling" and have given it the name "ho" rather than "haw."  (  How interesting that:

There have been two major discoveries of inscriptions that may be in the Proto-Sinaitic script, the first in the winter of 1904–1905 in Sinai by Hilda and Flinders Petrie, dated to circa 1700-1400 BCE, and more recently in 1999 in Middle Egypt by John and Deborah Darnell, dated to the 18th century BCE.(

Joseph Smith translated HoHaOop as "An Intercessor, one who has been appointed to intercede for another; invocation."  Of course, everybody knows that hands upraised can mean an invocation, or prayer, or worship, or one who invokes or vocalizes something to God.  Why then did Joseph Smith add the Ha Oop to the name of his character?  Because this is the principle of Acrophony:

Acrophony (/əˈkrɒfəni/; Greek: ἄκρος akros uppermost + φωνή phone sound) is the naming of letters of an alphabetic writing system so that a letter's name begins with the letter itself. For example, Greek letter names are acrophonic: the names of the letters α, β, γ, δ, are spelled with the respective letters: αλφα (alpha), βήτα (beta), γάμμα (gamma), δέλτα (delta). . . .

Modern radiotelephony and aviation uses spelling alphabets (the best-known of which is the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, which begins with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta...) in which the letters of the English alphabet are arbitrarily assigned words and names in an acrophonic manner to avoid misunderstanding. (

So, just as modern convention has the B as Bravo, Joseph Smith revealed that Ancient Egyptians or Semites involved with the Sensen tradition chose the Semitic Acrophone HoHaOop to represent the character with the hands upraised.  Nobody knew until a long time after Joseph Smith that the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet would have a cognate to Joseph Smith's HoHaOop.  Of course, it has both particles, Ho and Hah in it.  More research will show plausible Semitic or other roots from whence the word comes.

Tentatively, we can suggest a relation to Ho (Strongs Hebrew 1930) meaning "alas", Hah (Strongs Hebrew 1929) meaning "ah!", or an expression of grief.  And these both derive from the root 'Ahahh ['HH] (Strongs Hebrew 162), an primitive word which is an expression of pain.  Then there is the root ka'ab [K'B] (Strongs Hebrew 3510), meaning to feel pain or to grieve.  If it has anything to do with these roots, it is about the type of invocation where one is praying for help, perhaps.  Or, of course, someone begging for mercy for another person, as in the sense that Joseph Smith was translating it, as making intercession or atonement in someone's behalf. (Isaiah 53:12)

The from Greek, there is:

"Opa" is a Greek interjection used to express joy or high spirits, especially when dancing. (!)

The Egyptian version of this is (Gardiner's sign list A28, to enjoy, to be elevated, etc.):

(Image credit:

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Origin of All Alphabets, Including Sensen, in the Traditions of the Astronomical Sign Lists and Calendars

As I noted in previous posts, that I had read Flavin's article years back, where he talks about the book The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, Second Edition, by Hugh A. Moran and David H. Kelley.  It's a relatively rare, out-of-print book.  Also, Flavin notes Cyrus Gordon's belief that the Ugaritic Alphabet represented a Lunar Zodiac, after being influenced by Moran and Kelley's book.  I believe that the alphabet has something to do with Constellation lists, not necessarily the Solar or Lunar Zodiacs, contrary to what I had previously supposed.

Anyhow, the characters in the Sensen papyrus in the columns surrounding Facsimile #1, I believe have calendrical/alphabetical significance in an ancient derivative composition that is no longer extant, although the literal interpretation of them give the identification of the owner of the papyrus:

The order of the characters is not in the typical alphabetical order, but nevertheless, it is a sign list containing "Alphabetical" (i.e. phonetic and determinative) characters from the corpus of Egyptian characters, and they were repurposed for use in the said derivative composition.

Also, after reading through some parts of Moran's and Kelley's book, Moran's attempts to tie the Solar Zodiac to the Lunar Zodiac and the Alphabet are not very convincing to me.  But there is still something to it.  Kelley's argument, however, that the Mesoamerican calendar has its origins in Hindu and perhaps North Semitic calendars and lunar zodiacs, is very solid to me.  This will go along very nicely with what I will be presenting about Joseph Smith's Egyptian Counting section of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers in later posts.

I also found it interesting that even John Sorenson of Book of Mormon Geography fame quoted from this book in trying to establish good arguments for evidence of transatlantic contacts.  Anyhow, while mentioning linguistic correspondences between Greek, Mayan, Hindu, and Jain alphabetic/calendrical/zodiacal systems, Kelley stated:

These names are the only indication of borrowing at a linguistic level between any of the groups considered.  This gives extremely important support both to Moran's theory of alphabetic origins and to my own proposal of the derivation of the Mesoamerican calendar from the Eurasian lunar mansions.  While I pointed this out in an earlier study, I did not consider there the problems involved in this comparison.
The first question is how Old World alphabet-names could show up as a part of a calendar sequence in the New World among a group that did not have an alphabet.  If we accept Moran's hypothesis, I think we must also accept the implicit premise of a former system of lunar houses which provided the basic symbols and which may have had some of the names that subsequently became names of letters of the alphabet.  Such a system could not have had all of the alphabetic names unless we suppose that the process was reversed and that the names of the lunar constellations derived from a pre-existing alphabet, which seems to me exceedingly improbable.  It is obviously more likely that such a constellation series lies behind the Mayan day-names than that they derive from an alphabetic series.  My former student, Joe D. Stewart, has pointed out that a small number of Assyro-Babylonian constellation names could have supplied names to some of the letters of the alphabet . . .
The second major problem is how a unified Mesoamerican calendar system can show marked similarity in names to a postulated Greco-Semitic constellation list while deities seem best represented in a Hindu list.  The unity of the Mesoamerican system is found in the structure as a perpetually-repeating series of 20 names, in the accompanying complexities which create a unique 52-year cycle, and in the greater number of correspondences and meaning and in mythological associations.  We cannot postulate with any plausibility that Greeks or Semites introduced their calendar/alphabet to the Mayans, on the one hand, while Hindus introduced theirs to the Aztecs, and both were modified into a unified system.  Rather, I think we must postulate a series of lunar mansions containing some names which later became alphabet names and with accompanying deities like those of the Hindus.  (The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs, pp. 164-165)

This, in a nutshell, is what I generally agree with now, though it is not necessarily a lunar Zodiac.  There may have been some original prototypical constellation list that had some kind of influence universally on calendars and alphabets all over the world.  However, this was not a necessarily a list that we typically think of as a "Zodiac" which either follows the ecliptic (the path of the Sun) or the path of the Moon.  I am seeing from my research that these are may be from a Babylonian list or something else very ancient.  We read:
The formal scheme of Babylonian constellations was established early in the 2nd millennium BCE to mark 3 "equatorially-centred" stellar paths. These were the Paths of Anu, Enlil, and Ea. (It is doubtful that the Babylonians of the 2nd millennium had either actually identified the celestial equator or developed a formal concept of the celestial equator.) The dual purpose of the constellation scheme was calendrical and also to serve as sky markers. It was unrelated to the ecliptic (and to the zodiac which was not yet developed). Despite popular assertions to the contrary there is no mention of the zodiacal scheme in Babylonia, or elsewhere in the Occident, prior to the 1st millennium BCE.
Some constellations that later formed part of the zodiac were established in Mesopotamia circa 2000 BCE or perhaps earlier, and some were perhaps originally used as seasonal markers. (The expression "Stars of Elam, Akkad, and Amurru" perhaps suggests that, even very early, at least in Mesopotamia, the constellations originated as independent formal schemes having a calendrical purpose.) However, in the early 2nd millennium BCE these constellations formed part of the Babylonian system of "three stars each" i.e., the Paths of Anu, Enlil, and Ea. (There is some ambiguous evidence of earlier Sumerian constellations. It is reasonable to hold that perhaps the Sumerians originated certain constellations and perhaps they had a formal scheme for such.)
A significant change occurred (during the Assyrian Period) circa 1000 BCE with the astronomy of the Mul.Apin series. The astronomy of the Mul.Apin series established the preconditions for the establishment of the zodiac. (
Although Moran and Kelley may not have had a specific context for the introduction of Old-World calendrical systems to the New World, the Book of Mormon certainly answers part of that question.  For many calendrical and alphabetic systems, there is probably a prototypical constellation list that somehow has something to do with both Semites and Hindus.  Perhaps it originated in Babylonia or Persia and spread.  And I think it somehow also relates to or has some vague association to Abraham, which is why Ancient Egyptians chose to associate Abraham with the Sensen.  This is precisely the type of odd mix we see in the Egyptian Counting section of the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  Things that somehow not only seem to relate to Semites and Egyptians, but also to the ancient Hindus.  Far from being separate systems, it seems there is a prototypical Indo-Semitic system for the Indo-Arabic family of numerals, and for Hieratic numerals somehow.

Part of the biggest problem in Moran's work is the fact that he neglects to use the earliest form of the Alphabet, the Proto-Sinaitic (which also has Proto-Canaanite/Old Negev variants), forms of which were known in the era when he wrote his book.  And contrary to Moran, these are all definitely derived from Egyptian characters.  Furthermore, Moran and Kelley neglect to go to the earliest of constellation lists, but rely on the later lists.

Anyhow, my research on the connection between constellations/asterisms and the alphabet has gone through a number of stages, especially after reading Kelley's contributions to the book. I have come to the conclusion that the alphabets are not specifically zodiacs, because they are not in the order of a zodiac, nor do they necessarily follow the ecliptic.  Instead, they are just GROUPINGS OF CONSTELLATIONS, ASTERISMS AND OTHER ASTRONOMICAL/ASTROLOGICAL OBJECTS.  If you look at what is happening in Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, this is what you will find there as well, because it is a custom usage of Sensen characters in a way they weren't intended to be used before.  The groupings of characters are not in a Zodiacal order, and are not even constellations.  But a good number of them are astronomical in the way they are used in the KEP, or in other words, in the way they are repurposed in the KEP.

So, Kelly and Moran are not totally wrong.  The original alphabets still contain constellations, etc.  They just aren't specifically zodiacs in the general use of the word, where we would expect a typical constellation list to follow the ecliptic.

Anyhow, this is what I see in the Sensen Papyrus now.  Its characters were repurposed in to an Abecedarium-type structure in derivative documents.  This idea to do this type of thing originally had its origins in the traditions of sign lists with astronomical entities like rest of the alphabets did, though in itself, it is NOT necessarily a lunar zodiac.  Nevertheless, this type of idea originates in the genre of sign lists like calendars and zodiacs.  The mythology of Khonsu and the Sensen (Conjunction of the Two Bulls) are so prevalent in the Sensen Papyrus was so convenient, that it was capitalized on by the person that created a derivative document.  The usage of the papyrus in this way, in a derivative composition, goes back to a prototypical Lunar Zodiac/Abecedarium/Calendar tradition.  We will start out by deducing generalities like this, and moving more towards specifics.  More than just being something specifically that certain Egyptians associated with Abraham traditions (which it certainly is on one level), it has something more generally to do with the Lunar Zodiac, Calendars, Ancient Gaming Systems and Abecedaria.  Somehow, all of these elements are all tied together in this one tradition, of which the Sensen is a part.

So, in other words, while we will see some elements in Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet in common with other alphabets, it is not specifically an alphabet where all things will coincide with all other alphabets.  And it was not intended to be a lunar zodiac particularly, yet it does belong to the tradition thereof.

Furthermore, there appears to actually be more than one alphabet in the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.

Anyway, to summarize, the Sensen Papyrus is a papyrus that contains characters that were employed in applications that are tied to the Abecedaria, Zodiacs and Calendars.  It is a papyrus that supplied characters to be used as alphabetic characters in these compositions.  It was up to the user to supply the context for the way he would use the alphabet.  In other words, what the Sensen Papyrus does NOT contain is the mechanical Book of Abraham text.  The things that it DOES CONTAIN are characters that can be used in ways similar to or according to principles apparent in ancient abecedaria, zodiac, and calendar traditions.  And these principles allow for the ability to represent the Abraham story and tradition in derivative compositions with these characters.  These principles are such things as the alphabetical principle of acrostic-like, constrained expansions or mappings or linkages, as well as the alphabetical principle of Acrophony, which I will elucidate and expand on in later posts.

Now its not that there is anything wrong with the idea that the characters in the Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite Alphabet (which is the presumed original to the Semitic Alphabets/Abjads) originated in Egyptian Hieroglyphs.  Similarly, there is nothing wrong with the idea that the regular Egyptian symbols used as Phonetic characters in Egyptian also represent an Alphabet.  Its just that, the reason for the selection of symbols for Alphabets rather than others was not arbitrary.  It was originally astronomical/astrological.  Also, of course, acrophony came into the mix.  Speaking of Proto-Sinaitic, the following says:
A major breakthrough came with the decipherment of the word b`lt, (B`alat) by Sir Alan Gardiner in 1916. Gardiner concluded that the Sinaitic signs were created by reforming Egyptian Hieroglyphic signs based upon their acrophonic value. His reasoning has been found to be sound and his work continues to be the foundation upon which progress continues to the present. (

And also, another scholar wrote:

The origin of the Phoenician letters . . . in the Proto-Canaanite and Proto-Sinaitic scripts, and the borrowing of most, if not all, letter forms in the latter script from Egyptian hieroglyphics on the basis of acrophony are now seen as indubitable facts . . . (

Where the exact balance is to be found between acrophony and the other factors (such as mythology and astronomical factors) that inspired the alphabet has yet to be determined by further research.  I do not believe that these factors in the origin of the alphabet contradict each other.  And I believe that they are all important factors, and they are all involved in the mix.

From the Sefer Yetzirah: The Book of Creation, the following is very interesting.  (The following was translated by Aryeh Kaplan):
Twenty-two foundation letters: He engraved them, He carved them, He permuted them, He weighed them, He transformed them, And with them, He depicted all that was formed and all that would be formed…. Twenty-two foundation Letters: He placed them in a circle like a wall with 231 gates. The circle oscillates back and forth…. He formed substance out of chaos and made nonexistence into existence. He carved great pillars from air that cannot be grasped. This is a sign [Alef with them all, and all of them with Alef]. He foresees, transforms and makes all that is formed and all that is spoken: one Name. A sign for this thing: Twenty-two objects in a single body…. a rule of twelve and seven and three: He set them in the Teli, the Cycle, and the Heart…. He bound the twenty-two letters of the Torah to his tongueand He revealed to him His mystery. He drew them in water, He flamed them with fire, He agitated them with Breath, He burned them with the seven [planets], He directed them with the twelve constellations (, On the Origins of the Alphabet, by Brian R. Pellar, SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS, Number 196 December, 2009)
It seems especially clear here that this book is connecting the Alphabet to the Zodiacs.  In his paper where he quotes this, Brian R. Pellar uses it to try to substantiate a theory that I do not agree with, which is somewhat based on Moran's conclusions, where he tries to line up the Semitic Alphabet and the Chinese Lunar Zodiac with the Solar Zodiac, by doubling up the characters (or combining them into compound characters) and thereby, attempting to demonstrate how more than one character in the alphabet/lunar zodiac would match up with a character in the solar Zodiac.  I think some of Pellar's opinions are useful, but his central thesis is problematic, as is some of Moran's.  At least Pellar made use of the Proto-Sinaitic script.  All of these scholars have some things to add, but I can't agree with everything they believe.

As for the place of the origin of the Alphabet, it makes sense to me what some scholars at Yale believe, after they discovered some of the same Proto-Sinaitic type of writing at Wadi-El-Hol:
The Wadi el-Hol inscriptions (Arabic وادي الهول Wādī al-Hawl 'Ravine of Terror') were carved on the stone sides of an ancient high-desert military and trade road linking Thebes and Abydos, in the heart of literate Egypt. They are in a wadi in the Qena bend of the Nile, at approx. 25°57′N 32°25′E, among dozens of hieratic and hieroglyphic inscriptions. The inscriptions are graphically very similar to the Serabit inscriptions, but show a greater hieroglyphic influence, such as a glyph for a man that was apparently not read alphabetically. (
Now, here is what they said about it:

About 4,000 years ago, Egypt underwent a lengthy period of internal insurrection. In the course of reunifying his fragmented realm, the reigning pharaoh attempted to pacify and employ roving bands of mercenaries who had come from outside Egypt to fight in the civil wars. The Egyptians were the quintessential bureaucrats, and under Bebi’s command, there must have been a small army of scribes in the military whose job it was to keep track of these "Asiatics." There would also have been, says Darnell, a communications gap.
“There was no such thing as a POW camp in ancient Egypt," he explains. "When you were captured, you were simply put to work doing your old job, but for the other side, and so these 'Asiatic' troops, who were probably already quite Egyptianized, had to find a way to talk to their new comrades.”
They also had to deal with civil servants, all of whom could read and write hieratic. And somewhere out there in the desert, suggests Darnell, inventive scribes, to enable the captured troops to record their names and other basic information, apparently came up with a kind of easy-to-learn Egyptian shorthand.
It makes sense that the alphabet originated in Egypt, a place that was highly literate and had already developed a system of pictorial writing, rather than in the illiterate Sinai area," says Darnell. In fact, given the timing, it now appears likely that the alphabet in fact did not originate in Palestine, but was imported to the area from Egypt, and took on such a vigorous life of its own that historians have been persuaded ever since that it was born there. (
While it is true that there is no consensus among scholars on these points discussed here, at least there are some academicians that are experts in the Canaanitic scripts that side with this type of interpretation.  This makes a lot more sense with respect to why an "Egyptian Alphabet" would be invented from characters in the Sensen Papyrus, and to why the Kirtland Egyptian Papers would manifest Semitic names for the characters in it.  And why the Sensen tradition would have to do with an alphabet that seems to have so many Semitic connections.  If anyone would have given these characters names that Semitic people could understand, and modeled them after a Lunar Zodiac, it was the Egyptians.  Indeed, as Tacitus, a Roman Senator and historian wrote:
It was the Egyptians who first symbolized ideas, and that by the figures of animals.  These records, the most ancient of all human history, are still seen engraved on stone.  The Egyptians also claim to have invented the alphabet, which the Phoenicians, they say, by means of their superior seamanship, introduced into Greece, and of which they appropriated the glory, giving out that they had discovered what they had really been taught.  (Annals of Tacitus, by Cornelius Tacitus, p.187).
The possible fact that there is an astronomical connection to the alphabet makes more sense in light of the idea that it was invented by literate Egyptians than the theory that it was invented by illiterate Canaanites working for the Egyptians in the Sinai Desert.  Although many scholars do indeed prefer the theory that it originated in the Sinai.

Now, further research will hopefully manifest more direct evidence between the Proto-Sinaitic alphabet astronomical sign lists as time goes on.  At the very least now, the alphabet has been plausibly brought back to Egypt for its origin.  The conclusion is the same, even if it was invented in the Sinai.  Because the Canaanites in the Sinai were working for Egyptians, and if it was invented there, it was either Egyptians doing it for Canaanite use, or Canaanites doing it for their own use, having been influenced profoundly by Egyptian traditions.  It is now plausibly an Egyptian Alphabet, made by Egyptians for use by Semites/Canaanites.  And somehow, in the Greco-Roman Egypt, it has something to do with the Tradition of Sensen in Egypt, the Conjunction/Sacred Embrace of the Two Bulls, which is the mythological meaning of Sensen.

The Egyptians certainly had a Lunar Calendar, but we have yet to find a system of Lunar Mansions/Constellations among the Egyptians.  It seems strange that they would not have one and also have a Lunar Calendar.  It seems strange that it was among the Chinese and the other cultures, so plausibly among the Egyptians as well.  At least the evidence for the Lunar Calendar among them is clear and strong:
Egyptian calendar, dating system established several thousand years before the Christian era, the first calendar known to use a year of 365 days, approximately equal to the solar year. In addition to this civil calendar, the ancient Egyptians simultaneously maintained a second calendar based upon the phases of the moon.
The Egyptian lunar calendar, the older of the two systems, consisted of twelve months whose duration differed according to the length of a full lunar cycle (normally 28 or 29 days). Each lunar month began with the new moon—reckoned from the first morning after the waning crescent had become invisible—and was named after the major festival celebrated within it. Since the lunar calendar was 10 or 11 days shorter than the solar year, a 13th month (called Thoth) was intercalated every several years to keep the lunar calendar in rough correspondence with the agricultural seasons and their feasts. New Year’s Day was signaled by the annual heliacal rising of the star Sothis (Sirius), when it could be observed on the eastern horizon just before dawn in midsummer; the timing of this observation would determine whether or not the intercalary month would be employed. (

It is interesting that Hugh Nibley wrote, quoting Pineas Mordell, that:
In the oldest of alphabets, the Phoenician and Hebrew, "the order of the letters in the West Semitic System of writing is almost as old as the invention of that system itself.  It is only a short step from here to the hypothesis that the fixation of the order was part and parcel of that invention, that it was in fact a mnemonic device which helped the rapid spread of the West Semitic system of writing." (One Eternal Round, p. 258)
However, as I have shown in other posts it may be that alphabetic letters, rather than a set or static mnemonic device, it was something more like something that people applied a number of acrostics or similar structures to.  In other words, perhaps it was not so much a classic understanding of a static mnemonic in the usual sense, but rather, a set of things that were dynamic, and were applied to a great many things, such as the acrostics in the Psalms.  Hugh Nibley goes on to quote Phineas Mordell, writing that:
According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the letters "were made in the form of a 'state and arranged like an army in battle array,'" as if coordinating human affairs with the order of the cosmos.  We are told that "when Abraham understood it, his wisdom increased greatly, and he taught the whole law." (One Eternal Round, p. 258)
You see, what I believe this is saying is that, instead of being set meanings for the symbols, they were more like chess pieces on a chess board.  Like something dynamic, like the pieces on the Senet board or the Mehen board, the ancient Egyptian games, which I show elsewhere are also associated with the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham, as well as calendars.  The Sensen Papyrus was the same.  It was a thing that had a ritualistic ordering of symbols, but the symbols were not to be "read" the way this ordering spelled out, but rather, dynamic meanings were to be applied to the characters like in an acrostic.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sensen = Festival of Two Bulls in the sky: the Sun and Moon

Pangu is the creator god in some versions of Chinese mythology.  His myth is typical of the myths where the body parts of the god are used to create the world:

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. (

Pangu, like any other mythological god, is a representation, showing aspects of the true God.  The reason I bring him up is the association of his eyes with the moon and the sun.  Similarly, in Egypt, the sun and the moon were considered eyes of certain gods.  And I sense a certain commonality and similarity in these things.

Now, in previous posts, we had established that Khonsu is the representation of the moon, and is one of the bulls.  And a symbol of the sign lists associated with calendars was two bulls and the moon together in various configurations.  Over time, this type of idea became associated with alphabets, espeically in the Greco-Roman period, when Egyptians began to adopt the Greek alphabet.  The alphabet is among a genre of ancient sign lists that include Zodiacs (constellation charts) and calendars that use the signs of the Zodiac to keep track of time.  One bull is at the beginning of the Alphabet, and the other is at the ending of the Alphabet (Aleph and Tav).  Similarly, in certain Zodiacs, we have Taurus which is one of these bulls.  In the case of the common Solar Zodiac, we have a different animal, the Ram, which is Aries.  However, Aleph of the alphabet, as I have shown in other posts, has close associations with the Ram and the Egyptian god, Khnum-Ra and Amen Ra, which is also the Ram:

Also, in some posts, we saw that the wedjat eye is at the center of the game of Mehen, and that it is also represented by the Hypocephalus or Facsimile #2.  So, we read the following about the two bulls as symbols of the sun and the moon:

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. (
So, interestingly enough, the word SENSEN is occurring here in association with these symbols as astronomical symbols in the context of a conjunction between the sun and the moon.  And this occurrence is cyclical, happening every month, perhaps showing the associations with calendrical matters.  And if you remember, Khonsu the god of the moon, figures prominently in the text of the Sensen papyrus.  Hor, the owner of the Joseph Smith Sensen papyrus is the priest of Khonsu.  And the Book of Abraham, of course, is a document in which lots of astronomy figures in it.  At the very least, someone ought to see some associations forming here.

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 . . ." (, 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.

In other words, the festival of the two bulls was called SENSEN, meaning conjunction, embrace, fellowship, breathing, etc.  It is the same exact concept happening between the two major celestial bodies that happens between the gods and the initiate in the Sensen Papyrus:  a conjunction, a fellowship, in ritual embrace.  Michael Rice 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, emphasis in original was the italics, but bold emphasis was added.)
Sensen, then, if we may extrapolate a little with a hypothesis, then symbolically, in the context of the Greco-Roman era, when the Egyptian ideas started to hybridize with Greek ideas especially in places like Alexandria, it appears that the Sensen Papyrus came to be associated with the idea of a conjunction between the Alpha and the Omega, the Alphabet, and its characters may have been employed as a special alphabet.  In a zodiac, the signs are in the circle of the ecliptic, where the two bulls of the constellations meet, calendrically.  Joseph Smith referred to Sensen papyrus characters as an EGYPTIAN ALPHABET.  It is in the Sensen papyrus that the Egyptian alphabetic characters are found, and it is in the KEP, where Egyptian Alphabetic characters are "translated."  As Joseph Smith said, when he was working on his Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, that he was "translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham."

Now, in the Joseph Smith Sensen Papyrus, Hor, the owner of the papyrus, is called "the Bull of His Mother."  Once again, the concept of the bull is brought up.  This interesting phrase is discussed in the following quote:

Our focus this month is The Bull of His Mother, the Khemitian matriarchy, and the true meaning of the symbols we see in images of the "king," or "pharaoh." Some of his usual regalia appear at left: the red and white "double crown" with its curious spiral curling from the front, the vulture -- more about her soon -- flying overhead, and that thing behind the figure's rear leg that looks strangely like a tail because that's what it is. It's a bull's tail, and it identifies the one who wears it as the Hor, the Bull of His Mother, the male who is accorded special dignity and honor because the mother netert, the nurturer and protectress who is responsible for the life and abundance of the land, affirms that he is the one who is worthy, who can be trusted to care for her planet and her people. (

Of all Sensen Papyri we could have ended up with, we got the one where the owner was actually named Hor.  This is an interesting coincidence, fortunate for us.  So, the name Hor, not only is the name of the guy that owned our papyrus.  There is also a more general association of the name Hor with the symbol of the bull, and specifically, the phrase "Bull of his Mother."

Michael Rhodes translates the Hor Sensen papyrus this way: "The Osiris, God's father priest of Amon-Re, king of the gods, priest of Min, who massacres his enemies, priest of Khonsu, who is powerful in Thebes." (Michael Rhodes, The Hor Book of Breathings, A Translation and Commentary, p. 21).  Then in the footnote for "priest of Min," Rhodes makes note that Klaus Baer translated this phrase differently, as "bull of his mother."  Hor, the owner of the papyrus, is the son of Taykhebyt, his mother, who is mentioned in the text.:

His [Min's] importance grew in the Middle Kingdom when he became even more closely linked with Horus as the deity Min-Horus. By the New Kingdom he was also fused with Amen in the deity Min-Amen-kamutef (Min-Amen - bull of his mother). Min's shrine was crowned with a pair of bull horns. (

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Phaistos Disk: Possibly an Ancient Syllabary or Abecedarium Connected with the Egyptian Games of Senet and Mehen

As I had noted in earlier posts just in the last few weeks, the Egyptian Alphabet and the Facsimiles of the Book of Abraham may be intimately linked with the games of Senet and Mehen from Ancient Egypt, and that in them, some authorities have sensed calendrical significance.  Then tonight I happened upon this serendipitously:

In Knossos, an alabaster lid with the name of the Hyksos king Khyan has been found. The enigmatic Phaistos Disc, found in the palace of Phaistos on Crete, might also be linked with the Egyptian game of Senet and Snake Game. H. Peter Aleff argues that the depictions are not a script, but are related to the signs of the board game. Senet was a popular pastime in ancient Egypt from late pre-dynastic times on and is well documented because it became an important part of the funerary magic and then evolved into today’s Backgammon.

Its pieces simulated the passage of the player through life and, even more importantly, through death and its perils. The oldest surviving copy of any known board game is the Snake Game. It helped at least one king in the Old Kingdom Pyramid Texts to ascend to heaven and so seems to have represented the same journey, except that its path was not folded, as in Senet, but coiled into the spiral of a snake’s rolled-up body. On one of its sculpted stone boards, the tail of the snake ended in the head of a goose. (

Here is a picture of the Phaistos Disc, that you can compare with a Mehen board:


Wikipedia has this to say:

The disc was discovered in 1908 by the Italian archaeologist Luigi Pernier in the Minoan palace-site of Phaistos, and features 241 tokens, comprising 45 unique signs, which were apparently made by pressing hieroglyphic "seals" into a disc of soft clay, in a clockwise sequence spiraling toward the disc's center.

The Phaistos Disc captured the imagination of amateur and professional archeologists, and many attempts have been made to decipher the code behind the disc's signs. While it is not clear that it is a script, most attempted decipherments assume that it is; most additionally assume a syllabary, others an alphabet or logography. Attempts at decipherment are generally thought to be unlikely to succeed unless more examples of the signs are found, as it is generally agreed that there is not enough context available for a meaningful analysis. (

While it is true that a minority of scholars believe that it is a hoax (fraudulent artifact), if it is some sort of syllabary of abecedarium, it is not necessarily going to have a "translation" or message attached.  All that can be done is for explanations to be made for it.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Khonsu the Chronographer, god of Time Cycles and the Lunar Calendar, Connected to the Alphabet

The proposed hypothesis is that there was some purpose as to why the characters in the Hor Papyrus were employed as something like an Abecedarium (alphabetic sign list).  In derived works, the characters were used in a special way like an acrostic or other constrained, derivative composition.  The god Khonsu figures so prominently in it.  Hor the priest that was the owner of the papyrus, was a priest of Khonsu.  Why was the Sensen Papyrus associated with the idea of an alphabet, or a sign list that could be employed in creative ways, entirely separate from what the text "says."  Just like our alphabet can be used in letter and word puzzles, the characters in the Sensen papyrus were used in creative ways in derivative works.  So, let's explore how Khonsu may be associated with Alphabets.  Khonsu is closely associated with Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing, which is also an Egyptian moon god in some contexts.

Hugh Nibley writes the following about Khonsu:

It is entirely fitting and proper that the Breathings text should conduct on the pool of Knosu . . . Khonsu brings life-restoring breath . . . 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)
Egypt, of course, did not start out with an alphabet, but hieroglyphics, but over time, the Egyptians, in the era of the Greco-Roman period, adopted the Greek alphabet, and used it (as well as some modified demotic characters) as an alphabet that was specifically modified for use with the late Egyptian language dialects known as Coptic.  And in the Greek Magical Papyri, Egyptians used the Greek language and Greek alphabet.  The Egyptians idolized hieroglyphics as if they were containers for magical power.  And later, they came to believe the same thing about Greek vowels.  This syncretism or hybridization between Egyptian and Greek ideas probably centered in Alexandria.  It flourished among the Egyptian magical and gnostic sects, such as for example, the Basilideans.  They were a Gnostic sect that worshipped Abraxas or Abrasax (both versions of the same name for the god).

These types of ideas even found their way into Christianity, where certain Christians were representing the god Yahweh with the vowel representation of his name (Iaoue).  Some gnostic sects shortened this as Iao.  Remember, Christ is the God of the Alphabet, as it were (a term that I am coining), 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, and this why I coin this term.  To quote Richard Flavin:
Dr. Moran writes in The Alphabet and The Ancient Calendar Signs "It would seem to be of some significance and worthy of further investigation, therefore, that the first letter of the alphabet is the Greek alpha, the Hebrew aleph, a bull, not the ordinary word for bull, but a special ancient word used for sacred cattle, corresponding to the Assyrian word alpu, a bull.  Scanning down through the other letters of the Hebrew alphabet having names with recognized meanings in the Hebrew, we find that they also deal with ideas in current astrology: a house, a hand, an eye, a fish, a serpent; while strangely enough the last of all in the Hebrew is taw, a mark, a sacred symbol; the Aramaic tor, oryx or ox; the Arabic thaur; the Greek tauros; the Latin taurus; and the Germanic thor, the thunderer.  Two bulls?  The first and last letter of the alphabet a bull?  One is reminded of Alam and Alad, the two bulls of the Sumerians, one on the right hand and the other on the left of the gate of the temple; of alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, which is repeated with such impressive resonance in the Book of Revelation."  (
The "two bulls" seem to have been a signature or symbol of the calendrical sign lists in general.  There is some evidence and some theories that have been put forth (including one on this blog) that the alphabet started out as a zodiac.  The word khenes in Egypt, as we shall see, was associated with this symbol and these concepts, as well as the God Khons or Khonsu.  We read this about the word khenes, associated with Khonsu:

However, in 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)
Khenes 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  It is believed that this root derives from the root meh, that means "to measure."  It is very easy to see from the consonants that mhns and hns are related.

Khonsu is the God in the Egyptian mythology of the Beginning and the End, or in other words, the Lunar god associated to the alphabet traditions and similar astronomical or calendrical sign-list traditions like the lunar zodiac.  I don't mean to say that to the Egyptians, that Khonsu was the god of the Alphabet (because he didn't start out that way, and the Egyptians didn't have a true phonetic alphabet at first).  I mean to say that Khonsu became associated with these types of ideas over time, especially in the Greco-Roman  era.  He is directly connected with the cyclic traditions that have significance to the calendar, and to New Year rites and so forth.  That is the context of Beginning and the End, and so forth, and Calendrical traditions that were eventually also associated to the Alphabet.

Ancient Abecedaria, Acrostics and Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet

(The 6th Century BC Abecedarium from Attica, Greece, image credit::

(Ancient Greek Abecedarium on a Greek Vessel , Image credit:

As I stated, in the previous post, in searching for the ancient context for Joseph Smith's Egyptian Alphabet, I serendipitously found Richard Flavin's article on ancient alphabets and their connections to Zodiacs and so forth, and decided to follow Flavin's lead on ancient Alphabets, and their occurrences in Abecedaria and Acrostics.  Wikipedia has this to say:

An abecedarium (or abecedary) is an inscription consisting of the letters of the alphabet, almost always listed in order. Typically, abecedaria (or abecedaries) are practice exercises.
Some abecedaria include obsolete letters which are not otherwise attested in inscriptions . . .
Some abecedaria found in the Athenian Agora appear to be deliberately incomplete, consisting of only the first three to six letters of the Greek alphabet, and these may have had a magical or ritual significance . . .
. . . The number of Christian objects bearing the Abecedaria, with the exception of two vases found at Carthage, is extremely limited. On the other hand, those of heathen origin are more plentiful, and include certain tablets used by stone-cutters' apprentices while learning their trade. Stones have also been found in the catacombs, bearing the symbols A, B, C, etc. These are arranged, sometimes, in combinations which have puzzled the sagacity of scholars. . . . (

Like ancient abecedaria, the vertical tables of characters in Hor's Sensen Papyrus are listed as if they are some kind of "alphabet" or table of characters (this is my current hypothesis), and Joseph Smith sensed this.  This is important for the fact that acrostics and similar letter constructions have the element in them of assignment of meanings or linkage of content to characters, where the usage of the characters that are dynamic, not static.  And by this I mean that rather than having a meaning of a character that you can look up in a dictionary, and it will be always the same, an acrostic has a meaning or content that is assigned or linked to a character because it is its current usage for a certain context.

Wikipedia goes on directly connect acrostics to abecedaria, saying that they are a form of abecedaria:

An acrostic is a poem or other form of writing in which the first letter, syllable or word of each line, paragraph or other recurring feature in the text spells out a word or a message . . . As a form of constrained writing, an acrostic can be used as a mnemonic device to aid memory retrieval. A famous acrostic was made in Greek for the acclamation JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, SAVIOUR (Greek: Ιησούς Χριστός, Θεού Υιός, Σωτήρ; Iesous CHristos, THeou Yios, Soter — ch and th being each one letter in Greek). The initials spell ICHTHYS (ΙΧΘΥΣ), Greek for fish . . .
Relatively simple acrostics may merely spell out the letters of the alphabet in order; such an acrostic may be called an 'alphabetical acrostic' or Abecedarius. These acrostics occur in the first four of the five songs that make up the Book of Lamentations, in the praise of the good wife in Proverbs 31, 10-31, and in Psalms 9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119 and 145 of the Hebrew Bible.[3] Notable among the acrostic Psalms are the long Psalm 119, which typically is printed in subsections named after the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, each of which is featured in that section; and Psalm 145, which is recited three times a day in the Jewish services. Acrostics prove that the texts in question were originally composed in writing, rather than having existed in oral tradition before being put into writing.  (

Furthermore, we read:

The traditional practice of teaching the letters of the alphabet and their order by means of a mnemonic verse, consisting of words representing the individual letters, prompted the literary usage reflected in the Bible, of composing poems arranged in alphabetical order, be it with each verse beginning with a different letter, or with several verses for each letter (Lam. 3, Ps. 119), or with a different letter at the beginning of each half verse (Ps. 111, 112).
The poems, too, are at bottom didactic-literary attempts to convey by a series of words and sentences the essence of what is capable of expression by the letters of the alphabet: they present the letters in the order of a certain basic verse and extend and elaborate their didactic significance.  Some of these biblical poems were no doubt themselves composed in the course of teaching and for teaching purposes (comp. some of the psalms attributed to David which are likewise didactic in character. . . (The Origin of the Alphabet, by H. Tur-Sinai [Torczyner], The Hebrew University, Israel, “The Mnemonic Verses and the Alphabetically Arranged Poems of the Bible,”

To make this simple, here is an acrostic poem based on the letters in the word "Christmas":

C is for the Child born that night to be our light. (John 8:12) 
H is for holy is His name. (Rev.4:8) 
R is for rejoice with gladness & joy. (Luke 1:14) 
I is for Immanuel, God with us. (Is.7:14,) John 1:14) 
S is for the star that led the Wise men to Him. (Matt.2:2) 
T is for the truth & grace that was sent our way. (John 1:14) 
M is for Mother Mary laying Him in swaddling clothes in the manger. (Luke 2:7) 
A is for angels singing songs of joy. (Luke 2:14) 
S is for salvation. - Johnnie DesRochers.

Here we have a mapping of letters and meanings assigned to them, in a derivative composition.  Nobody would seriously suggest that the letter C really means the word Child in every occurrence of the letter C in the English language.  It is only so in this derivative composition.  It is abstract until you make a value assignment or linkage to it.  Yet, the acrostic made use of it and gave it a meaning or linkage for the moment, in that context, giving it the desired value assignment.  And if you were translating that, certainly in your translation of this poem in its particular context, C would mean or be linked to Christ Child.  So why do people get bent out of shape about the Abrahamic context of the Egyptian Alphabet in the Sensen Papyrus?  Now imagine an acrostic of ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ.  Here is one that I will make up here on the fly for the sake of making my point.  An alphabetical acrostic of Mormon things:

A is for Adam
B is for Brigham
C is for Christ
D is for Duty
E is for Salvation
F is for Faithfulness
G is for God
H is for President Hinckley
I is for I bear my testimony that I know Mormonism is true
J is for Justice
K is for Keep the Faith

And so on and so forth.  That is the type of acrostic I'm talking about that is an "alphabetical acrostic."  Or in other words, what has been called an Abecedarius (not to be confused with an Abecedarium).  And perhaps, this is one thing that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers and the Explanations for the Facsimiles of the  Book of Abraham represent.  That is, they could represent a derivative composition, that is something like an acrostic, where characters were employed in constrained structures using an ancient type of alphabet.  And so, Joseph Smith reconstituted some sort of constrained writing experiment, reproducing or reconstituting something from ancient times in the modern day.  When Joseph Smith said he was arranging an alphabet, putting a table of a letter on the left side column, and an explanation on the right side, this mapping of character to explanation could be considered something akin to an acrostic-like constrained structure, in that it is a table of characters with text assigned to or linked to each character, even though it was not a mnemonic in the sense of a memory device, necessarily.  And it wasn't the same as a typical "dictionary" either in the sense of having a static meaning for a character.  Rather, it was a dynamic thing where meanings are assigned or linked at the time for a certain context, in that particular derivative composition.

My hypothesis is that this was the way the ancients arranged their abecedaria in derivative compositions, when text went along with the characters.  This is the same as how e acrostics are done in the Psalms.  The Psalms are a derivative composition, using the Hebrew alphabet as something that gives it structure, and linking the characters in that alphabet to content.  Therefore, in sensing that the tables of characters in the Hor papyrus represented a custom alphabet to be used in derivative compositions, and in arranging an alphabet table with its mappings or linkages of characters from the Sensen alphabet to explanations(explanations), Joseph Smith was just apparently following the lead of the ancients in this thing, precisely as he said he was.  There is, after all, ancient precedent for everything that he was doing.

No Egyptologist would say that the hieratic W character (that looks like a comma) that Joseph Smith said meant "Abraham" would ACTUALLY MEAN ABRAHAM IN ALL INSTANCES, because of its nature as an abstraction, any more than anybody would say that C always means Christ Child.  Yet, in the context where it was used that way, it meant precisely that.  W, after all, is the initial of WSIR or Osiris, and it is Osiris on the Lion Couch that Joseph Smith identified as Abraham.  Yet we know that according to Barney's theory of Semitic Adaptation/Iconotropy, Osiris only means Abraham when it is in the context for it to mean that.  Why then do some people have a problem with W meaning Wsir/Osiris/Abraham?

In acrostics, the usage of a symbol or letter is not necessarily a literal translation of the meaning of the symbol, but the symbol is used in the context of or has something to do with what the acrostic poem or message is trying to convey.  It is an abstraction, until the context of its use gives it a value assignment or linkage.  Therefore, in a "translation" of the "alphabet" of the Sensen papyrus, Joseph Smith's translation of this papyrus is not of the text of the papyrus, but rather, it is a reconstruction of the constrained, derived composition.  That composition contained a message that employed the Sensen characters in the columns as a part of it.  In other words, that's like having the Hebrew Alphabet in front of you, and coming up with a revelation of the text of the Psalms that use the Hebrew Alphabet in its acrostics.  Nobody would say that you had the text of the Psalms in front of you if all you had was the Hebrew Alphabet.  Yet, if you were a prophet and you came up with such a thing in your derivative composition, you would be conveying the message of the acrostic in which the alphabet was used.  It seems likely to me, this is the type of thing that the Kirtland Egyptian Papers represent.  The Sensen Papyrus to some ancient people represented an "alphabet" to the derived, constrained composition of the Book of Abraham, that uses the various letters in an alphabet to mark the sections like in the Psalms.  In other words, when these people REPURPOSED the characters in the papyrus in a derivative  composition, this is what they did.  Abraham didn't do this, but Egyptian Priests that cared about the story of Abraham did.  In itself, the Sensen Papyrus is not a text of the Book of Abraham, and is not related to it.  So, when Joseph Smith sensed that the papyrus had something to do with the Book of Abraham, it was all about reproducing the message that was in a derivitive composition, using characters that are abstract without meaning until they have value assignments in that derivative composition.  The Egyptian that did this didn't particularly care about the mechanical text that the abecedarium would spell out (i.e. the Egyptian Endowment that Hugh Nibley identified), which was its original intent of the Sensen Papyrus.  He only cared about the intent of the people that made the acrostic-like message in the (constrained derivative) composition that this papyrus would go along with.

This is why Joseph Smith stated:

The remainder of this month, I was continually engaged in translating an alphabet to the Book of Abraham, and arranging a grammar of the Egyptian language as practiced by the ancients. (History of the Church, Vol.2, p.238)

It wasn't the text of Book of Abraham. The "translation" was the recovery of what was a constrained, hybrid, derivative composition, something that existed in some other papyrus as a text anciently.  There was no text in this papyrus when used this way.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Strange Connections Between the Sensen Papyrus, the god Khonsu and the Semitic Alphabet, Part 2

Where we left off in the last post is about the fact that both the god Khonsu and the wedjat eye are the moon.  Richard Flavin, a researcher, noted that professor Cyrus Gordon identified a “lunar zodiac in the order of the letters of the Ugarit cuneiform alphabet” and that he “sensed a calendary reason behind the number of and the illusory random ordering of the letters of the alphabet . . .  A lunar zodiac refers to various (though uncannily similar) ancient calendars which regulated time by noting which stars, planets, and constellations appeared in the night sky simultaneously with a specific (usually new or full) phase of the moon, thus identifying set hallmarks of the natural year . . .  The 1948 recovery at Ugarit of an abecedary (a sequential collection of the letters of the alphabet) is often regarded as an exercise example from the efforts of an apprentice scribe.  A significant difficulty with this interpretation, as well as other ancient abecedaries, is the apparent disregard for a potential mnemonic contained in the order of the letter-names of the alphabet.  The acrostics in Lamentations 1-4, Proverbs 31, 10-31, Psalms 25 (though the qoph is absent), 34, 111, 112, etc. are late, yet exceptional testimonies to tradition mnemonics as contained in the order of the letter-names of the alphabet.”  (Richard Flavin, The Oldest ABC's: The Ugarit Cuneiform Alphabet,

In his article, Flavin goes on to note that the sign for the Hebrew letter Aleph (following the Assyrian word alpu) means bull, and that the last Hebrew letter Taw is also the bull, similar to the Aramaic tor or the Arabic thaur.  His conclusions follows the original research of Hugh Moran and David Kelley in their book, The Alphabet and the Ancient Calendar Signs.  Though the work of Moran and Kelley are not universally accepted, some of their deductions have been a key to a lot of my research.

So, Flavin's quote above has a real lot packed in it that we will have to unpack and unravel in future posts.  But, suffice it to say that when I found this article by Flavin years ago, I had a strange feeling in my gut that his analysis would form the basis for a lot of things that would directly relate to the Sensen papyrus and to the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.  As we go along in these posts, you will see what I mean, specifically with the weird coincidences/correlations between the Sensen Papyrus, the Kirtland Egyptian Papers/Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, Zodiacs, Calendars, Mithraic Tauroctony scenes (which are star/constellation charts), Abecedaria and Acrostics in the ancient world.  I will focus on the hypothesis I propose that the Sensen papyrus in the usage as the Book of Abraham has something to do with Abecaderia and Acrostics, that is, an ancient derivative document employed Sensen characters in a custom, derivative composition, that combined them with Abrahamic content, and assigned meanings to them for use with that content.

And of course need I mention the fact that Tvedtnes and Crapo originally sensed a mnemonic in the Sensen Papyrus?  (Although I totally disagree with them about the way they believed that worked.)  In some ways, an acrostic can be considered a mnemonic.  But I differ here because I don't believe that this was all for the purpose of being a mnemonic or memory device.  Rather, they were character assignments in a derivative composition, but not explicitly for the purpose of memory recall.  Rather my hypothesis is that there is an art form going on here in a derivative composition.  It is more for the purpose of art in a religious context than for the purpose of memory recall.

So, in summary, I do not accept that the Sensen Papyrus was necessarily a mnemonic for memory recall, but that letter puzzles like acrostics figure in to this derivative composition, even if they were not specifically memory devices in this case, per se.

The Strange Connections Between the Sensen Papyrus, the god Khonsu and the Semitic Alphabet, Part 1

This is a picture of the first part of the Hor papyrus (going from right to left).  As you know by now, the prophet Joseph smith translated these characters in the columns surrounding the picture of Facsimile #1 in the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, as parts of the "Egyptian Alphabet."

Here, I have cut and pasted the four columns together so that they are easier to see.  As I said previously, some of these characters would be translated individually.  Others would be broken up into what Ed Ashment and Chris Smith call "lexemes," being either component pieces of characters, or individual strokes of characters.  Now, here are some strange connections that I have tried for a long time to wrap my head around.  Sooner or later, I will understand the full implications of what is happening here.  Much like Joseph Smith understood what he was doing only little by little, here a little, there a little, I am only understanding some of the things that are going on here little by little.  And the details of my opinions change as I go, but my central premise has not changed.

Now, it is clear enough that these characters in question give the genealogy and identity of the owner of the papyrus, Hor.  Michael Rhodes gives it as this:

The Osiris, God's father priest of Amon-Re, king of the gods, priest of Min, who massacres his enemies, priest of Khonsu, who is powerful in Thebes . . . Hor, justified, the son of one of like titles, master of the secrets, god's priest, Usirwer, justified, born of the house wife, the musician of Amon Re, Taykhebyt.  May your soul live in their midst.  May you be buried at the head of the West . . . May you give to him beautiful and useful things on the west of Thebes like the mountains of Manu.  (The Hor Book of Breathings: A Translation and Commentary, Studies in the Book of Abraham, Volume 2, pp. 22-23).

Other copies sometimes seem to contain parallel "identification" sections.  So Joseph Smith could have done the same thing with any other copy from the Sensen tradition.  In the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, Joseph Smith generalizes from these characters, and turns them into parts of his custom "alphabet."  This is a reconstitution of what someone was trying to do anciently.

I will start at a general place, rather than trying to analyze too many particulars about the characters above.  I will say that Joseph Smith sensed that somehow the Sensen Papyrus had something to do with an alphabet or at least, the concept of an alphabet, a customized alphabet, a new invention by someone anciently.  It is observable that the characters surrounding Facsimile #1 are at least different than the characters in the rest of the text of the Sensen Papyrus, insomuch as they are in columns, which is different than the rest of the text, which is like usual rows of text.  It is therefore, conceivable that Joseph Smith sensed in these columns some kind of chart or table or list of some kind, rather than being regular text.  Because Joseph Smith may have thought this about the papyrus, it is, therefore, conceivable that the ancients thought that the Sensen Papyri in general had something to do with the concept of alphabet, or that they invented the idea that a derivative, custom alphabet could be invented from it.

Now, as you know, this chart or table, giving the identification of the person, specifies the identity of "the Osiris," or the person laying down on the lion couch, which Joseph Smith identified as Abraham.  In the mechanical or Egyptological Egyptian, his identity is not only Osiris, but also Hor, the owner of the papyrus.  Furthermore, he is identified as the priest of the god Khonsu.  Furthermore, in the Sensen text, when it gives instructions for wrapping the papyrus in linen and putting it in with the mummy, the god Khonsu figures prominently in that text as well, where it says that the mummy will be towed on the lake or pool of Khonsu.  At certain points, Hugh Nibley interpreted this part of the papyrus text as a baptismal or washing scene.  Similarly, in Facsimile #1, it shows the figure of Osiris that Joseph Smith identified with Abraham, laying on the lion couch, above a river, where the god of Pharoah, or the crocodile is swimming.  However, this water is above what Joseph Smith in the explanation translated as "the pillars of Heaven."  Therefore, it seems that what we are dealing with is the waters in the heavens (the Heavenly Nile or the Milky Way), or that which is above the Raqia (Raukeeyang), or the firmament/expanse.

In this connection, it is interesting that among Australian natives, they have traditions about the stars where their heroes would be live among the stars, and this would play a part in their initiation rites:

In such a rite or bora at Mount Milbirriman, seven fires were lighted round an oval ring; at the south end stood a native threatening a big clay figure of a crocodile with a spear.  The seven fires represented the Pleiades, who were seen as seven young men dancing to a song sung by three young women in Orion's Belt.  The clay-figure in the middle of the ring was a giant crocodile frequenting the dark river of the Milky Way; the novices were told that this fiery monster would swallow them if they showed any weakness in passing through the rites. (Origins of Astrology, by Jack Lindsay, p. 93).

So, even in the Lion Couch scene, it is clear enough that the lake or pool of Khonsu is the expanse of the Heaven, and that the theme here is Celestial, and the notion of a celestial crocodile in the Milky Way is a theme that is not just found in Egypt.  It is not surprising, therefore, that Joseph Smith would translate these things in the "alphabet" as being things that are Celestial.  Some of these things are translated as Kolob, Kli-flos-ises, and so forth, things that are clearly celestial objects and concepts in the Book of Abraham.

Now, the person is "towed" along the lake or pool of Khonsu, as if he is travelling in a boat.  Lunar typology is what is going on here.  The concept of travelling shows the essential meaning of the word khenes).  The moon in Egyptian is Khonsu, the “Traveler.”

Khonsu, 'The Traveller', or 'Wanderer', refers to the moon wandering across the sky. The name Khonsu is considered deriving from the verb 'khenes', meaning 'to cross over or transverse'. He went through a complete transformation of character during time. In the 'Cannibal Hymn' in the Pyramid Texts, he is a bloodthirsty deity, the 'angry one of the gods' who helps the deceased king to slay deity enemies in the Underworld. (

This may be related to the Indo-European root mehnes, meaning moon or month.  The connection between the consonants are obvious:  mhns and hns.  Curiously enough, it is the wedjat eye that is also the moon.  If you remember, in a previous post, I showed that the wedjat eye is the prime example or prima facie prototype for the process of dissecting a character into its component parts.  It is broken up in its component pieces to represent various fractions.  This would appear to be directly linked to the Egyptian LUNAR CALENDAR:

We must admit that at all periods of Egyptian history there were real lunar months.  these were carefully worked out and noted, for they had deep religious significances; and they had their reflection in myth and in the tales of the loss and return of the moon's eye and its magical virtues. (Origins of Astrology, by Jack Lindsay, p. 154).