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Ba as Form of Divine Manifestation in Ancient Egypt
by Jan Bergman

This paper was published as “BA som gudomlig uppenbarelseform i det gamla Egypten,” Religion och Bibel 29, 1970, pp. 55-89. In 1994, I translated it into English for my own study purposes. Since this contribution contains original insights that were not made available in the more widely read languages of Egyptology, I’ve decided to put the translation here on my Web site. I hope it will prove to be of use to serious students of Egyptian religion.

At the end of the paragraph preceding the reference to note 23, the reader will find: “Since we intend to treat this essential aspect of the bA(w) concept later in this survey, we do not need to detain ourselves in this matter without . . . with this relationship in mind, we can proceed to what Egypt’s most ancient comprehensive text compilation, the Pyramid Texts, has to say on the subject.” This passage begins at the end of a page and continues at the top of the next page. Evidently, when the page makeup was done, one or more lines were omitted; the ellipsis indicates the break in the text.—D.L.

The choice of subject for this lecture can be explained in many ways. In addition to the central role that bA undeniably plays in Egyptian texts of widely varying sorts, I should like to stress two reasons here, by way of introduction.

First, from its frequent use in the funerary literature, which in many respects dominates our knowledge of ancient Egyptian culture, the concept of bA has come to be conceived above all as a concept of soul. Thus, in the handbooks of religious history, bA is usually(1) described as an Egyptian concept of soul—alongside kA and Ax—and is conventionally translated as “soul.” This simplified and one-sided view has obviously caused a series of misconceptions concerning certain important Egyptian concepts of bA, which will be exemplified below. Later, we shall also have reason to touch briefly in part on the question of how the concept of bA as “soul” arose, and in part on the question of to what degree a concept like “soul” is on the whole suitable to render what the Egyptians themselves had in mind in their use of the concept bA.

Secondly, concepts of bA which were previously rather neglected have lately acquired a renewed interest. Indeed, in the course of one and the same year, two monographs, a Swiss dissertation(2) and a comprehensive American study,(3) have been devoted to just this theme. And even in other contexts, certain bA concepts have independently received rather detailed treatment.(4) The fact that stress is placed on various aspects and functions of bA in these studies,(5) and the fact that the results in this connection differ considerably from one another in certain respects, are, naturally, further conducive to rendering a study of ancient Egyptian bA concepts attractive

Before we tackle the material, I very much wish to emphasize that in what follows, a number of aspects of the (at least for us contemporary westerners) extremely complex concept bA will be left in the dark, while others will be the object of only an incidental illumination. It is only the use of bA (bAw) as a divine designation or as a form of divine manifestation that I intend to place in the limelight, as is also stressed by the title of this lecture. That we are dealing, in this connection, with a most essential aspect of bA, which appears already in the earliest accessible epoch of the long-enduring culture of Egypt, is witnessed unequivocally by the oldest written sources. Let us therefore begin by hearing their testimony.

1. The Testimony of the Earliest Evidence

It is to the credit of Elske Marie Wolf-Brinkmann that, in her abovementioned dissertation, she has consistently concentrated her attention on the earliest available source material for her interpretation of the meaning of the bA concept. In her thesis, to which the reader is referred for closer study, we find the most complete, and at the same time lucid, collection of attestations of bA from the Thinite period and the Old Kingdom.

The written sources at our disposal from this period are chiefly comprised of two groups of texts quite different from one another, i.e., personal names of various sorts and the Pyramid Texts. Before we consider these two categories of text separately, however, it would be apposite to underscore a characteristic common to both groups, with the observation that in each case, alongside writings of bA as singular, there also occur plural writings, without there seeming to be any essential difference in meaning. Phrases with bA or with bAw are often employed in parallelism and seem to be interchangeable. Whether it is a question of a genuine plural form or of an apparent plural for an abstract (cf., e.g., nfrw(6)) in writings with bAw can be debated, just as, on the other hand, the tendency in the earliest inscriptions not to write out the plural(7)probably an economizing measure comparable to the later writing of the plural with the help of three strokes or dots instead of the more cumbersome threefold repetition of the sign in question—renders difficult any conclusion as to whether, in actual fact, a singular or a plural is intended. We shall have occasion later to return to this, in our opinion essential, circumstance that bA and bAw blend so easily into one another, and we shall therefore content ourselves in the present context with just the observation.

The collection of names accounted for by Wolf-Brinkmann is comprised of just over eighty examples. Names of pyramids, ships, and domains, as well as of pharaohs and other persons, are included in the group, in which personal names clearly dominate and names of domains are also frequent.(8) Among the personal names, we should first note a group of ten identically constructed designations composed of the name of a god—or pharaoh, who at this time could ideologically be put on an equal footing with the other gods—followed by bA.f.(9) The names in question thus proclaim that Horus (etc.) is bA, with the proleptic position placing special emphasis on the divine name. It is worth noting which gods, according to the most ancient stratum of names, are accorded the quality of being bA. This is especially a question of Horus, Chnum, Ptah, Min, the Ram,(10) and Re,(11) along with the pharaohs Snofru, Chefren, Kakai, and Isesi. This enumeration, which can easily be complemented by other, similarly constructed names,(12) already demonstrates unequivocally that this is in no way a question of some sort of subordinate deity, some kind of “demigod” whom one might sometimes have had in mind. Quite the contrary, the quality of being bA characterizes the great, dominating divine figures. “To be bA” here gives the impression of being an approximate equivalent of “to be nTr”— the most common designation of “god”. In this context, it is especially worth noting that, as later, the combination of bA (bAw) and nTr (nTry) is already common in this early stratum of names.(13)

This seems to confirm the affinity supposed here between bA and nTr. A comparison of the ship names bA-nTrw and wn-Hr-bAw, in which the verb wn-Hr to “reveal oneself” occurs synonymously with bA, and nTrw and bAw constitute parallel terms, well illustrates this relationship.(14)

Another oft occurring name form is, in our opinion, suited to illustrate an essential characteristic of bA (bAw). This is a question of names compounded with the verb xai “to show oneself, reveal oneself” + bA(w) + divine name.(15) They thus proclaim that the bA(w) of Sokar, Hathor, Ptah and Chnum, along with Sahure, reveal themselves.(16) To this must be added the designation isxayt-bAw.s“she who causes her bAw to be revealed” of a goddess in the mortuary temple of Sahure.(17) Here, the context is quite illuminating. The complete name of the goddess in question reads, “Bastet, mistress of Ankhtawy, [Sakhmet],(18) Shesemtet, she who causes her bAw to be revealed, mistress of xabs.”(19) That we are dealing with one goddess here is clear inter alia from the circumstance that the last-named epithet is a common designation of Bastet, whose name here opens the titulary. At the same time, the display of names obviously calls to mind that this goddess appears in a series of diverse forms. This, in my opinion, affords the explanation of what is meant here by bAw. This last seems to allude to the various forms of manifestation just named: it is Bastet, who also reveals herself as Sakhmet or Shesemtet, who is comprehensively designated as “she who reveals her bAw.”

In this connection, I wish to recall another designation of a goddess which strongly resembles the one just discussed. In three places in the Pyramid Texts,(20) the sky goddess bears the name xA-bA.s, which is traditionally translated “She who has a thousand bA(w)” or “She whose bA is thousandfold.”(21) Behind this designation, in all probability, lies the concept that the stars, which are explicitly mentioned in Pyr. 785, constitute the manifold forms of manifestation of the sky goddess. The circumstance that none of the three occurrences displays a plural writing in this context, where diversity is so clearly stressed, is worth noting. Here, it might be a question of the preservation of an old name form that did not write out the plural. In my opinion, however, one should reckon with the possibility that we have here evidence of an attempt to juxtapose unity and diversity—an important theme we shall treat in greater detail later—with the help of the bA(w) concept.

We must content ourselves with the examples of names compounded with bA(w) recounted above, even though much could be added. Those adduced should suffice as a basis for the approach to the interpretation of bA(w) which Wolf-Brinkmann consistently pursues in her dissertation.(22) The German Egyptologist wishes to translate bA(w) first of all with “Gestaltsfähigkeit,” and secondly with “Verkörperung(en)” or “Erscheinungsbild(er)” as the concrete result(s) of the former quality. In the textual material she treats, to be or to have bA(w) is a typically divine prerogative, claimed first and foremost by the great gods—among whom, naturally, the pharaohs are included. BA(w)—as “der (die) Gestaltsfähige(n)”— can thus quite easily substitute for the concept “god(s).”

In my opinion, this shows that Wolf-Brinkmann has without doubt underscored, through her proposed renderings, a most essential characteristic of the Egyptians’ concepts of bA(w), namely the circumstance that in a way that is difficult for us to grasp, they span what we would prefer to express with bipolar combinations, such as abstract–concrete, transcendent–immanent, unity–diversity, and so forth. We especially touched on this characteristic point of view in our brief interpretation of the two designations of the goddess. Since we intend to treat this essential aspect of the bA(w) concept later in this survey, we do not need to detain ourselves in this matter without . . . with this relationship in mind, we can proceed to what Egypt’s most ancient comprehensive text compilation, the Pyramid Texts, has to say on the subject.

But first, it is useful to recall a fact that Siegfried Schott in particular signaled in his studies on the earliest myth formation in Egypt.(23) Alongside the word nTr,(24) which is the predominant Egyptian designation for god from the Pyramid Texts down to Coptic literature, and which can have such diverse referents as the royal raiment used in the cult (Pyr. 57) and Jesus Christ among the Christian Copts, there is a series of other designations for gods and groups of gods in the earliest texts. Indeed, a comparison of earlier and later cult titles, as well as of earlier and later versions of Pyramid Text utterances, shows that these other concepts were often more original and were only later replaced by nTr(w). Thus—to cite only a few examples—Seth’s following, the Following of Horus, and the Children of Horus only gradually came to be called quite simply nTrw, while at the same time, nTr entered, as a complement, into the designations of a series of diverse cult objects.(25)

This relationship is of significance in our context, for the reason that one of those other divine designations that could probably lay claim to being more original than nTr is, specifically, bA(w). As H. Kees has already stressed,(26) a comparison between Pyr. 1089a and its adaptation in Pyr. 1373a is enlightening: in the former case, the bAw of Buto occur, while in the latter, the nTrw of Buto are to be found in an overall identical context. Let us consider some other examples from the Pyramid Texts which can illustrate how bA(w) and nTr(w) seem to be nearly interchangeable concepts. At the same time, however, we must remember that several other divine designations as well—especially sxm(w) and Ax(w)—demonstrate a strong affinity with the two concepts that stand at the immediate center of our attention. It is clear that the range of uses of the abovementioned terms coincides in several respects. Accordingly, it is often difficult to decide why use has been made of one word and not the other.

In an “ascension” text (Pyr. 478a-479a), we read of Pharaoh:

To him come the gods, the bAw of Buto,
(and) the gods, the bAw of Hierakonpolis,
the gods of the sky (and) the gods of the earth;
they prepare a support for you on their arms;
may you ascend to the sky,
may you climb it in its name “ladder.”(27)

The structure of this utterance clearly shows that we are dealing here with two (and not more) groups of gods,(28) namely, the bAw in Buto and Hierakonpolis, the old cult places of Lower and Upper Egypt. These are now doubly designated as nTrw on the one hand, without a closer qualification, and on the other, as gods of sky and earth. In the former case, one could consider the interpretation that the present text represents an earlier and a later version (with bAw and nTrw, respectively), which in typically Egyptian fashion have been preserved side by side. The closer specification of the two divine groups as “gods of the sky” and “gods of the earth” is well worth noting. Aside from the fact that these epithets are especially suited to the context, given that it is a question of divine beings who will unite the sky and the earth with their celestial ladder, the assignment of the roles is significant. It is probably no coincidence that it is the bAw of Buto, who were later pictured with falcons’ heads, who are characterized as the gods belonging to the sky, while the bAw of Hierakonpolis, provided with jackals’ heads in later representations, are placed in a relationship to the earth. Further, it should be noted how the combination of the two bipolar schemata, Buto–Hierakonpolis (for Lower and Upper Egypt) and sky–earth, underscores in a twofold manner(29) the universal significance of Pharaoh’s journey to the sky.

We meet once again with the same groups of gods in Pyr. 941a-942b:

So equipped, this NN (= Pharaoh) goes to his mother Nut;
he ascends her in her name “ladder.”(30)
I(31) bring you the gods of the sky,
I collect for you the gods of the earth,
so that you might be with them,
so that you might go on their arms;
I bring you the bAw of Buto,
I collect for you the bAw of Hierakonpolis,
all belongs to you.

Although the identity of the divine groups here is not as clearly evident as in the preceding citation, in my opinion, we should not in light of this have any doubt that the groups of bAw are cited in this connection for precisely the reason that they are conceived of as a more precise interpretation of which gods are meant by the rather vague designation “gods of the sky” and “gods of the earth.”

For the moment, let us leave the in many respects problematic bAw P and bAw Nxn—so read their Egyptian designations—and turn our attention to Pyramid Texts utterance 217. Here, in formulaically developed phrases, various gods are called on to bear the news of Pharaoh’s arrival in the sky to the four cardinal points. Four groups of gods, together with their Axw, are named as recipients of this proclamation: first come nTrw Smaw “the gods of Upper Egypt” (Pyr. 153a), followed by nTrw mHw “the gods of Lower Egypt” (Pyr. 155a), then nTrw imntyw “the western gods” (Pyr. 157a), and finally, bAw iAbtyw “the eastern bAw” (Pyr. 159a). How should one explain this very striking change from nTrw to bAw in the last instance?(32) Wolf-Brinkmann poses the question but is at a loss for an answer.(33) She rejects the possibility that this is a regular divine designation, referring to the fact that the occurrence in question would be the only example from the Old Kingdom. This is, however, only partly correct, for in Pyr. 1478, we encounter a fourfold address to Re as he rises, wherein the sun god bears, in the third position, precisely the designation bA iAbty. I consider this passage to be of vital interest for our problem. That the sun is “the eastern bApar excellence needs no detailed explanation: the east is the place of sunrise, which in its turn is the most patent manifestation of the sun. Above, in our account of the prosopographical material, we stressed the frequent connection between bA(w) and xai “to show oneself, to reveal oneself.” In my opinion, it is precisely this aspect of bA which has caused the employment of bAw (instead of nTrw) in this particular context. In this connection it is worth noting, on the one hand, that bA also otherwise designates the sun in the Pyramid Texts—the graphic description bA imy-dSr.fbA who is in his redness” (Pyr. 854a)(34) affords an illustrative example—and, on the other hand, that bA iAbty remained a common divine designation far down into the Late Period.(35) Although one can debate the more precise identification of the “eastern bAw” referred to in Pyr. 159a, one would not err in recognizing here the sun god with his following, when he reveals himself on the eastern horizon. At any rate, it should be clear that behind the employment of bAw, there lies no lower ranking in relation to the other three groups of nTrw, but rather a stress on the special activity pertaining to these eastern gods.(36)

Returning to bAw P, the bAw of Buto, in Pyr. 1004c-1005c, we find them engaged in the funeral rites leading to Osiris’—and Pharaoh’s—resurrection. The utterance begins by maintaining that the doors of heaven are opened for the king.

The gods (nTrw) of Buto are filled with sorrow,
they come to Osiris at the sound of the cry of Isis and Nephthys;
the bAw of Buto dance the beating dance(37) for you,
they beat their body for you,
they clap their hands for you,
they tear their sidelocks for you.>br>

It seems to me that the dramatic development described here makes it quite clear that in this passage, which has a direct parallel in Pyr. 1973a-1974a, it is not a question of two different divine groups from Buto; rather, nTrw and bAw here denote the same gods.(38) To transform the gods of Buto into spectators while the bAw of Buto act strikes me as being a highly improbable distribution of roles. There remains the question of why the designation of the gods who appear here changes. That bAw P constituted the regular, likely original, designation of the performers in the Butic funerary ritual(39) probably yields a part of the answer. For my part, I would also point out that the transition from nTrw to bAw occurs in precise parallelism with an increase in the level of activity of the performers. This is probably not a coincidence. In many other cases as well, bA seems to stress the active role of the divinity. Moreover, the fact that bA often emphasizes the vital power of the divine—something to which we shall have occasion to return—can perhaps also have come into play in the instance in question here.

A Heliopolitan slaughtering ritual included in the Pyramid Texts (Pyr. 1543 ff.) is sometimes(40) taken as justification for the idea that bAw P and bAw Nxn—and therewith, bAw overall—represent a sort of divine being of evidently lower rank than nTrw. The ritual in question prescribes that the best cuts of the offering animal be allotted to the gods of Heliopolis, with Khepri and Atum at their head. Next follow the gods of the region, and then, by degrees, even the gods of the dead are recalled. Finally, it is stated (1549c): “What the gods leave over of it belongs to the bAw of Hierakonpolis and the bAw of Buto.” It is probably difficult to draw any farreaching conclusions from this passage. It can be interpreted quite literally: what (the aforementioned) gods leave over belongs to the other gods of the Egyptian pantheon—none named but none forgotten. Kees himself, for example, recommends such an overlapping interpretation of bAw P and bAw Nxn in another context.(41) And even if we think we detect a disparaging tone in this last phrase (the said bAw should content themselves with the leavings from the divine repast), the polemic is probably not directed against bAw as such, but rather against the old chief locales of Hierakonpolis and Buto, which Heliopolis, whose priesthood was responsible for the surviving redaction of the text in question, perhaps remembered as former dangerous competitors for religious authority.(42)

We shall detain ourselves somewhat further over the common, but in my opinion and that of others(43) false, understanding that bAw stands especially for a lower rank of divine beings. A general contributory reason why this misconception has become so widespread is without doubt the conventional translation of bA as “soul” and the incorrect associations such a rendering often awakens. The common designation bA of various “incarnation animals” in the Late Period has surely also played a role in this connection. Here, however, we shall take up for brief discussion a more special factor, which on the one hand is connected with the abovementioned understanding, and on the other hand has to do with the two groups of bAw under consideration. Kurt Sethe, the great German Egyptologist to whom each and every one who works with the Pyramid Texts stands in so great a debt of gratitude, has maintained on several occasions(44)—though not without certain reservations—that these groups of bAw represent the deceased, deified ruling dynasties of the two chief cities of Upper and Lower Egypt, respectively Hierakonpolis and Buto, which according to him played a prominent political role in prehistoric times. In this way, Sethe also wishes to recognize these bAw in Manetho, in the nekues hoi hemitheoi, or manes heroes as they are called in the Latin versions, mentioned by him as the immediate predecessors of Menes.(45) This identification on Sethe’s part presupposes, however, two intermediate points. On the one hand, one must connect the groups of < i>bAw in question with Axw, whose later range of meanings corresponds especially well with Greek nekues and Latin manes. This designation is also to be found for several of the earliest dynasties, according to the well-known Ramesside Royal Canon of Turin,(46) which even connects them with place names that, however, cannot be more closely determined because of the fragmentary condition the papyrus displays at this point. On the other hand, there has to be here an identification with Smsw Hr, “the followers of Horus,” which, as a qualification of the concept Axw in the same papyrus (II 8), designates the dynasty that immediately preceded Menes.

Much could be said about both these connections. Here, we must content ourselves with the following remarks. First, in regard to the so-called Followers of Horus, W. Kaiser has recently shown in certain articles(47) how complex this concept is—K. counts three different meanings of Smsw Hr already in the earliest period and reckons up nine ranges of application.(48) In this context, it is important for us to note that the common use of Smsw Hr as a designation of the royal standards that appear in festival processions in no way allows the conclusion that it could be a question of beings or forces of lesser power. Quite the contrary, we are probably dealing with the concrete symbols of the chief deities, whom one might expect to find as companions of the king on these occasions having to do with the good or ill of the kingdom. Moreover, the Smsw Hr appear as divine beings in the Pyramid Texts.(49) It is clear that early on, this group of gods displays an affinity with bAw P and bAw Nxn,(50) and also that a direct identification with them can be supported, at least in the Late Period.(51) It would be hazardous, however, to maintain on the basis of this that the two groups of bAw must originally have designated the deified rulers of Buto and Hierakonpolis. Thus, moreover, to maintain on the basis of this hypothesis that it should accordingly be a question of lower divinities or powers entails the adoption of an anachronistic point of view of the earliest Egyptian concepts of the divine. In my opinion, bAw P and bAw Nxn constitute the comprehensive designations of the pantheons of Buto and Hierakonpolis—in connection with which, obviously, we can note how these two places tended more and more to represent Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt generally.(52) It goes without saying that local deified rulers might well have been included among them, just as later, these last were especially stressed in the context of annals.

It is quite possible that a development in the meaning of Axw could have played a role in this connection. We have already noted that in just the place occupied by nekues hoi hemitheoi (or manes heroes) in Manetho, the Turin papyrus shows the combination Axw Smsw Hr. This could very well be an expression of two different traditions that had fused here. It is also quite possible that the double designation in Manetho stems not only from a reflection of the difficulties of translating Axw into Greek—which is the common explanation—but from a need to render a double term that his source already displayed. In any case, we can note that Ax(w) on the one hand often appears in full parallelism with bA(w) in the earliest texts, while on the other, it later shows a displacement of meaning which stresses the difference between these two concepts. In this connection, in which we are chiefly concentrating on the most ancient text material, let us first cite some examples of the earlier relationship.

We can begin by noting that in the Pyramid Texts, we often meet with enumerations of the deified pharaoh’s divine qualities. These formulations serve to hammer in the circumstance that Pharaoh is now in all respects comparable to the gods. Thus, it is stated that Pharaoh is bA, Ax, sxm, etc.(53) Just these three expressions—which all constitute ancient divine designations(54) of the sort that were later increasingly replaced by the general word for god, nTr—appear together especially often in this context, sometimes all three together, and sometimes in pairs in which bA and Ax alternate as concepts paired with sxm.(55) By way of example, the following passages from the Pyramid Texts testify to the close connection, and also the complex relationships, among these concepts. In the so-called Cannibal Hymn, we find the bA(56) and Axw of the gods mentioned side by side (Pyr. 413a). Another passage, already noted above (Pyr. 153 ff.), mentions not only the Upper Egyptian gods together with their Axw, but also the eastern bAw along with their Axw in direct parallelism with them. And, the glorified pharaoh can be interpreted with reference to bA and sxm and even be superior to the Upper Egyptian gods and their Axw and the northern gods and their Axw (Pyr. 204c and 206c).

A comparison of two similarly constructed Pyramid Text passages, 754c and 2108b, gives the impression that bA and Ax here are entirely interchangeable divine designations: in both cases, it is precisely the king’s general characteristic of nTr, which is then connected with Osiris, which is stressed (754b and 2108a); the latter is then designated “the Ax in Nedit, sxm in the Thinite nome” in the former instance and “bA in Nedit, sxm in the Great City”(57) in the latter. These two passages are certainly suited to illustrate how closely related the two divine concepts, bA and Ax, were to one another, at least in this early period. At the same time, however, it is possible that there might already be a certain difference here, as an embryo of subsequent development in meaning. I consider it most likely that already in this period, the use of Ax especially emphasizes Osiris as the prototype of every pharaoh glorified(58) through the proper funerary ritual, while the employment of bA in this context lays special stress on the vital power of the Osiris who is at least partially resurrected in Nedit.

Already in the Pyramid Texts, however, we seem to detect a tendency toward the demotion of Axw,(59) which later becomes more and more evident, eventually enabling the Axw to assume the role that the djinn play for Egyptians of today. In this connection, we must content ourselves with pointing to this striking displacement of meaning, to which the use of bA(w) displays few corresponding features. It is in the light of this development in the language that we must judge the employment of Axw—and not bAw—in the later annalistic tradition concerning the deified rulers who preceded Menes.

We can round out this briefly sketched picture by pointing to an important fact. In the enumeration of various divine, human, and other living creatures that fill the Egyptian world—lists that in their most elaborate form go by the name onomastica,(60)—we naturally also find the concepts dealt with here. We can first note, then, that Ax appears in the Onomastica of Amenemope in the following context: nTr–nTrt–Ax–Axt–nsw–nsit (nos. 63-68). We can certainly recognize that this sequence of god–Ax–king (here also with feminine complements) stems from the annalistic tradition. Characteristically enough, bA is not mentioned at all in this context.(61) BA also occurs, naturally, in more detailed lists. Let us especially note the following enumeration in the late Papyrus Salt 825 (I 5 f.): bAw, nTrw, nTrwt, rmT (“people”), Axw, mtw (“the dead”), whereupon follow words for four-footed animals, etc. The position of Axw between “people” and “the dead”—one is reminded of the nekues and manes in Manetho(62)—is most illuminating. The contrast to bAw, which here precede even the gods, could hardly be greater! I shall attempt to forward an interpretation of these bAw’s aggrandized position, which is probably at least partially conditioned by the context in question in Papyrus Salt 825, in connection with the more systematic review of essential characteristics of bA to which we shall now proceed.(63)

2. Essential Traits ofbA as Form of Divine Manifestation

Our review of a portion of the older evidence regarding bA(w) has already afforded us occasion to consider certain important traits that characterize the use of the particular divine concept bA(w) and accord it its special profile alongside other divine designations. Instead of continuing with a chronologically arranged presentation of the material pertaining to bA as a divine designation—an account that would exceed the bounds of this lecture—I wish at this time to try to collect and stress the aspects of bA which I consider especially important in this context. This more summary procedure can to some degree be justified, in that in the preceding, we did not rigorously confine the material we treated to the earliest epoch, but also allowed later evidence to enter the discussion here and there.

Before I proceed to my presentation of characteristics of bA as form of divine manifestation, however, I want to stress once again that we obviously cannot expect sharply bounded and well fixed fields of application of the intimately related concepts bA, nTr, Ax, etc. In many respects, these words evidently cover the same ground, so that the choice of one or the other concept is often merely a question of different stress or structure. Consequently, the audience-reader will be wise to make some attempt, right from the beginning, to assimilate the additive way of looking at things so characteristic of the Egyptians and which did not lay out sharply defined either–ors, but rather anticipated several possible solutions corresponding to a multiplicity of approaches—to avail ourselves of H. Frankfort’s classic formulation. The distinctive conceptual mode that western logic has made its own can all too easily lead us astray from Egyptian grounds, not least of all if, as in our case, it is a question of the nuances of Egyptian concepts of the divine. This implies that many of the characteristics that will be especially connected with bA in what follows can certainly not be denied to concepts also linked to other designations of the divine. Our intention is not to play various concepts of the divine against one another, but rather to underscore the aspects of the bA concept that stand out as especially striking in our work with the texts, and which seem to be of vital interest for a deeper understanding of what the ancient Egyptians brought to bear in their employment of bA as a designation of the divine.

a. Unity–Diversity

In the study of a people’s concepts of the divine, the question of unity and diversity in the world of the gods attracts justified interest.(64) The simple issue of polytheism or monotheism should, through closer study, yield rather nuanced assessments of a given religion. Concepts such as henotheism, kathenotheism and monolatry testify to scholarship’s consciousness of a rather complex reality, even if these have not enjoyed as great a popularity as the two first-named terms.

To characterize Egyptian religion as polytheistic is almost a truism. But to speak of monotheistic tendencies(65) in it—aside from Akhenaten’s monotheistic teaching, which was proclaimed with prophetic consciousness—can be regarded as motivated by several points of view. Seen most deeply, this last is naturally connected with how unity and diversity are integrated in conceptualizing the personal god.(66) In my opinion, it is in this connection that a study of bA concepts can be especially profitable. That is to say, the concept of bA is in a very special way suited to function as a bridge between unity and diversity in understanding the divine. Let us briefly point out how bA(w) seems in many ways to tend to assume an intermediate position between singular and plural and to open itself to an explanation from both directions.

It is only natural to begin with some epigraphic observations. BA is normally written with the sign for a saddlebill stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), whose name probably coincided phonetically with bA.(67) It cannot be decided whether we have here a homonymity that was wholly coincidental from the beginning (so Wolf-Brinkmann(68)), or a combination conditioned by meaning, in which the saddlebill stork illustrates some essential trait of bA. Personally, I would reckon with the latter alternative. In any case, we can note that a series of other animal forms is also employed epigraphically to render bA. The most important of these is the ram, which was evidently called bA. It is no coincidence that in later periods, several of the most developed bA theologies revolved specifically around ram forms (bA in Mendes, four forms of Chnum in Upper Egypt, etc.(69)) When the Wörterbuch (I 411) wishes to see confusions in writings of bA with a ram, the editor is in my opinion on a fundamentally wrong track and evinces an all too superficial point of view. Further, there phonetically coincided with bA the name of an animal, namely the leopard, whose prominent ideological role over nearly all the African continent is well known. Here, we must content ourselves with pointing out that in a passage in the Pyramid Texts (Pyr. 1027b), where the context indicates that we have to do with a common bA formulation, bA is determined with the head of a leopard. This might be a clue that bA was also connected with the form of a leopard.(70) Later writings with various serpent signs(71) can also be noted, and we are only skirting the boundary of a field of pictorial representation that can be set alongside the Benu bird (phoenix), the Apis and Buchis bulls, the Hathor cow, the Sakhmet lion, the Bastet cat, etc., as characteristic “incarnation animals” of respective deities, conceived of as their bA.

Of course, it is not in and of itself odd for an Egyptian word to have diverse writings, but if, as in the case in question here, they comprise ideograms, the circumstance is well worth noting. When it is also a matter of as special a constellation as a number of animal signs, one must wonder whether this can really be only a matter of coincidences. That the ability to assume various forms was included in the bA concept right from the beginning—in which connection the richness of forms in the animal world is especially noticeable—is a hypothesis that cannot be proved, but which certainly would fit well with the realm of ideas surrounding bA, which at a later date displays such a richness of varied forms. If, on the other hand, one proceeds from the occurrence of the homonyms bA for saddlebill stork, ram, and leopard, one can at least pose the question of whether this striking linguistic coincidence might itself have fostered the interpretation of the bA concept intimated here. The search for some common bA behind these various bAs might very well have been conducive to further elaboration and determination of Egyptian representations of bA.

It is of interest at this point to note that we do not just find these various writings represented severally on their own, something that would only indirectly actualize the unity/diversity relationship; rather, there exist some passages in the Pyramid Texts which display typical hybrid forms. When bA is determined with the Horus falcon on a divine standard (e.g., Pyr. 413c version T and 1913c), it cannot in and of itself be a question of anything other than an ascription of divine rank to bA. The writing could, however, also be interpreted to mean that bA here is thought to assume form as the Horus falcon, a motif later well attested in the Book of the Dead. The parallel passage in Aba 536 displays a writing with stork and ram side by side, which seems to stress that bA can have various forms. In this connection, one can compare the already mentioned Pyr. 1027b, where a leopard’s head serves as determinative of bA rendered with a stork sign. In the pyramid of queen Neit, in the passage in the text corpus (Nt 625) corresponding to the abovementioned passages, we find a merging of bird and ram traits in one and the same form.(72) Here, we are apparently witness to an attempt to catch the transition from one form to another, if we wish to assume an entirely dynamic point of view, or—seen more statically—a conflation of forms in a single form. Here, we can almost palpably grasp the tensions between unity and diversity in the concept of bA.

Let us reflect momentarily on this important perspective. Each and every person who comes into contact with Egyptian representations of the divine is immediately struck by the fact that they give such a variegated impression: anthropomorphic and theriomorphic traits are blended together in an apparently arbitrary manner, while attributes from the natural world and power symbols of yet another sort play a predominant role in representations of the divine. Evolutionists have explained this in their own way by seeing in it an expression of various stages in the development of the representation of the divine in Egypt. Today, it should scarcely be necessary to caution against such a biased point of view. The entrée opened by a study of bA as divine manifestation, along the broad lines suggested above, affords a much more productive way of approaching these divine forms. The uniting of several forms in one seems an excellent way of illustrating the ability of the divine to assume widely differing forms and at the same time remain one and the same. In connection with bA, we have established that theriomorphic forms of expression play a dominant role in this process, and corresponding observations concerning divine images in general should point to a deeper connection.

Thus, we have noted writings of bA that tend to break through the restriction afforded by the singular form. Here, it is interesting to observe that the plural writing bAw, for its part, might also possibly be interpreted as an attempt to express unity. To be sure, we encounter three storks, which recalls the old repetitive writing of the plural, but in the earliest epigraphic attestations,(73) these three birds already constitute a typical monogram: the three birds are united into one sign. Though the production of three animals side by side in some shifted perspective, so that a quantity of animals is clearly indicated, is a common phenomenon in tomb reliefs of the Old Kingdom, so far as I know, the monogram bAw, as an ideogram that is consistently used in writing the plural, has no parallel.(74) As a purely epigraphic matter, there could also be an attraction here to the singular, which can be grammatically proved regarding bAw and to the treatment of which I now wish to turn.

To begin with, we can compare two passages in the Pyramid Texts. Pyr. 1472b-c says of Pharaoh, called “this god,” when he ascends to the sky, “His bA is above him, his powerful word (HkAw) is at his two sides, his terror(-inspiring power) is at his feet.”(75) We encounter exactly the same wording in Pyr. 477a-b, with one exception: here, bAw occurs instead of bA. This juxtaposition(76) already reveals that there is probably no essential difference in meaning in the employment of bA in the former and bAw in the latter instance. One can with reason wonder whether it is overall a matter here of a real plural form.(77) At the beginning of our treatment of the earliest attestations of bA(w), we already pointed out that in bAw, we often have rather a so-called false plural standing for an abstract. If one wishes in general to ascribe an intention to the choice of bAw instead of bA, it would most likely be a question of emphasis. Zabkar(78) speaks of intensive plural in this regard. We might well compare this emphatic plural to our plural of majesty. And in this connection, it is worth recalling that the divine collectives we treated, bAw P and bAw Nxn, have no corresponding singular forms—bA P and bA Nxn were entirely unknown entities in Egypt. Thus, such collectives can in more than one way illustrate the combination of unity "and diversity in bAw.(79)

There is entirely grammatical proof that bAw could be understood as singular, at least from the New Kingdom, when the singular pronoun is used in alluding to bAw .(80) And the uncertainties regarding the plural form for bA can be traced far down in time. So, e.g., the editors of the well-known Demotic magical papyrus in London and Leiden stress, in their commentary on a passage (col. IX 21-22) where bA appears, that a separate plural form of the word does not exist in this late stage of the language.(81)

Thus far, we have chiefly occupied ourselves with epigraphic and grammatical data to illuminate the theme unity–diversity in bA(w). As we turn now to achieving a deeper perspective, the ideological—or, if one will, the theological—it is important to stress that these different means of approaching the concept are more methodologically than factually motivated. Distinctions between form and meaning, between external and internal criteria, easily obscure the deeper connection and the ingenious interplay between what we regard as internal and external factors on the basis of it. We have already had occasion to touch on this in the discussion concerning the various ideogrammatic writings of bA.

As we have noted, in her interpretation of the bA concept, Wolf-Brinkmann emphatically stresses that it embraces the poles “Gestaltfähigkeit” and “Erscheinungsbild(er).” In my opinion, this observation is correct and important. The range of meaning includes, accordingly, on one side a divine ability that is and remains one and the same and which is characteristic of divinity to such a degree that bA can often best be translated quite simply as “god” or “deity,” and on the other side its concrete form, which can be quite variable from one instance to another. That bA(w) always exists in this field of tension and never absolutely represents only a single pole is a fundamental insight, which is nevertheless lost in translation in individual cases, where one is often constrained to choose between abstract and concrete.(82) Application of this reasoning otherwise shows that the above designation of bAw as an abstract form scarcely furnishes a solution to the problem of singular–plural. In interpreting bA(w), we must therefore constantly bear in mind this indissoluble connection, so that in applying it to a concrete form, we do not lose sight of the fact that it is an instance of the divine bA, while at the same time we remember that in applying it to this divine capacity, the latter makes its appearance in concrete bA forms. Against this background, it is not difficult to understand that the bA concept was exceptionally well suited to play a prominent role in Egyptian theology, which was so often confronted with the task of combining, merging, and identifying gods and of capturing these different constellations in formulae. Here, I shall recall an already stated proof of this: the goddess Bastet-Sakhmet-Shesemtet, who was united into one form, thanks to her epithet “she who causes her bAw to be manifest.” It is important to stress the double meaning in the rendering of this divine designation: the goddess reveals here both her ability to assume form and her concrete forms of manifestation.

In the so-called Cannibal Hymn, which we briefly touched on earlier,(83) we can observe that at the end (Pyr. 413 f.), it is stressed that just here, the king takes possession of the gods’ Axw (with plural writing) and their Swt “shadows.” As the first term, the gods’ bA—in the singular—is mentioned. An attempt has been made to explain this singular form with the help of a grammatical rule;(84) however, this is scarcely convincing, given that the same rule is not at work in regard to the parallel concepts Axw and Swt. It seems much more plausible to me to see in this a conscious expression that Pharaoh is thought to have devoured not only the individual divine forms—which are named earlier—but the ability to take form, bA, which is common to them all, by means of which he also becomes lord over all their future forms.

The most decisive divine confrontation encountered in Egyptian religious thought is without doubt that between Re and Osiris. As the principal representatives of sky and earth, life and death, light and darkness, day and night, they constituted one another’s necessary complement. Without some form of union between them, the Egyptian world view would have been hopelessly divided and the rhythm of life broken. This is not the place for a detailed account of the dramatic tug of war between them or their tension-filled reconciliation, which put its stamp on much of the religious development in ancient Egypt.(85) What interests us here is to establish the role played by the bA concept in this context. The locus classicus for this encounter is a passage in chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead, which already occurs in a large number of Coffin Texts.(86)

In the catechistic formulation characteristic of this section, it is explained here what is meant by bAwy.fy, with whom the deceased identifies himself, and how this form arose. The expression can be rendered either “He with the two bAs” or “He with the double bA.” The latter translation is preferable, in my opinion, since it brings out more clearly the intimate connection between Osiris and Re to which the text gives clear expression. It can, moreover, find a certain support in that two or three versions speak directly of bA in the singular.(87) The actual section reads in the earliest version (the Coffin Texts):

I am “‘He with the double bA,’(88) who is surrounded by his children.”—What is that? As for “He with the double bA” (etc.(89)), it is Osiris,(90) who, when he arrived at Mendes, found there the bA of Re; they embraced one another and so “He with the double bA(91) took form. As for his two children, it is “Horus who protects his father” and “Horus with (var. without) the two eyes.”

Thus far the earlier form of the text. In the Book of the Dead, an additional variant follows, which interprets the divine designation thus: “It is the bA of Re, it is the bA of Osiris, it is the bA of him in whom Shu is, it is the bA of him in whom Tefnut is. It is ‘He with the double bA,’ who (bA) belongs to those who are in Mendes.”

There is no room here for a closer analysis of this interesting, but especially in the Book of the Dead version, complicated passage.(92) Let us simply maintain that in it, the bA theology has taken over, so that the two children, depicted in the vignettes as two djed pillars and associated in the text with Shu and Tefnut,(93) the two divine children par excellence, are also connected with bA. The quartet of bAs which thus arises in Mendes naturally reminds us of the later attested notions of the four forms of the Ram of Mendes, which are interpreted as the living bAs of Re, Shu, Geb, and Osiris. Important for us to note, however, is specifically the fact that already in the earlier version, bA stands entirely center stage: it is precisely the bAs of the gods which are united into one form in the most concrete imaginable manner. BA, which in a special way is characterized by the ability to assume form, is, with that, predisposed to function as, so to say, the meeting place for such divine identifications.

Further, in one respect it is worthwhile that something adheres to just this passage. I am alluding to the question, touched upon at the outset, of the rendering of bA as “soul.” It is quite common to arrange the connection between Re and Osiris into the simplified—and easily misleading—scheme soul (bA)–body (XAt, etc.), so that Re is explained as the “soul” of Osiris and Osiris is considered the “body” of Re. Certainly, one can find attestations both of the former—e.g., Amun-Re as “the august bA of Osiris” in the temple of Opet at Karnak(94)and of the latter: in the well-known Osiris hymn in the Louvre, Osiris is designated “Re’s own body”—but immediately before this, the god is designated the “bA of Re”!(95) And the passage in question in the Book of the Dead also constitutes a warning against an all too schematic division into “soul” and “body” in regard to the division of roles between Re and Osiris. The occurrence in the Late Period of such designations as “Re-Osiris, the Great God, united bA” and “Osiris in his form of Re”(96) can serve as illustrations of how thinkers sought various ways of giving expression to this important divine combination. There is considerable proof of this in the fact that the aforementioned divine association is not the only one produced with the help of the bA concept and conveyed by bA formulae. So, e.g., Osiris can also count as the bA of Anubis, and Amun can be designated the bA of Shu, just as Shu can be called the bA of Amun.(97) The key position of bA in these connections is patent.

In another place in the Book of the Dead,(98) we find as an epithet of the sun god the striking designation bA n xmt, which could most simply be rendered as “threefold bA.” Morenz,(99) who translates the phrase as “Erscheinungsweise der Drei,” wishes to see in this an example of a modalistic trinity, juxtaposing it with the proclamation of the sun god in the well-known Turin papyrus about “Re and Isis”: “I am Khepri in the morning, Re at noontime, Atum in the evening.” A temporal interpretation of the expression is quite conceivable—though in consideration of the introduction of the chapter in question, I would prefer to see here a play on yesterday–today–tomorrow—but the question is probably whether we do not here have to do with an even more comprehensive formula. A threefold division is often pregnant for plural–multiplicity. It is tempting to see in the expression a theological formulation of the combination unity–diversity, of the unique ability to assume an endless number of forms which the bA concept actualizes. That bA is an oft recurring concept in the Book of the Dead overall fits in with the directly mentioned wish on the part of the deceased in this connection, to be able to assume whatever form he desired. It was precisely in this quality of bA that this was possible for the departed. Nor, therefore, should there be surprise that the wish to be bA, from the earliest Egyptian mortuary texts on down, seems to appear more frequently in the mouth of the deceased than the desire to be nTr (“god”).

Let us end this section on the vital function of bA(w) as mediating link between singular and plural—a section which, despite the fact that it has grown long here, in no way does justice to the detailed Egyptian speculations about bA—with some further, brief observations.

Alongside the number three, the number four also functioned as an expression for totality, which can easily be understood as stemming from the ancient Egyptian world view.(100) This has also left its trace in the concepts of bA. A little earlier, we had reason to recall the concepts that were associated with the Ram (bA) of Mendes, and which in a natural manner assumed expression in speculations about bA. In the well-known Mendes stela, which Ptolemy II had set up on account of the installation of a new “incarnation animal,” this last receives, in the framework of a typical royal titulary, inter alia the following epithets: “living bA of Re, living bA of Shu, living bA of Geb, living bA of Osiris, bA bAw.” The concluding superlative bA formula already underscores the aspect of totality in this dynastically developed series of epithets, in which the bA relationship to the four divine generations of the Heliopolitan succession legitimizes the bearer of the titulary. This fourfold qualification as bA bridges the temporal gap between primeval time and the present. It is certainly no coincidence that the king’s legitimation, his position as Horus, is associated precisely with four generations.(101) At the same time, it is important to understand that unity is quite clearly stressed. In the continuation, the ram is called “bA, heir of the god,”(102) which recalls that at a deeper level, it is one and the same bA—one and the same divine kingship—which is handed down through the generations. Whether “the god” alludes to Re or Osiris is therefore a matter of choice, resting on which of the time lines we take as our point of departure.

More common than this temporal understanding of the group of four is its spatial interpretation, which is anchored in the conception of the world. This is otherwise also intimated in regard to the Ram of Mendes, when it is stated on the same stela that he appears on the horizon with four faces,(103) lighting up sky and earth with his rays. This emerges clearly as well in the bA speculations at Esna(104) concerning Chnum, who unites in himself four gods, who are called the four living bAs, namely: the lord of the Beginning City (Elephantine) as the bA of Re, the bA of Shu as lord of Esna, the bA of Osiris as lord of Hypsele and the bA of Geb at the head of Antinoe. Here we see how the geographical model, in which the four places indicate the world of Chnum, has gained the upper hand over the dynastic principle. When Amun is designated in a text passage as “Horus, the five living bAs, who is located in Nun,”(105) we perhaps have to do here with a further development of this theme. In any event, this connection of unity and multiplicity is illuminating. To round things out, in conclusion, I will simply recall that the number seven also came into use in connection with bA: beginning with the New Kingdom, the idea that Re possessed seven bAs can be found.(106)

b. Ubiquity

In the following review of further essential features of the Egyptian concept of bA, we must proceed more summarily. This is, however, not simply conditioned by the framework that a lecture entails, but is also motivated by the fact that what follows hangs closely together with the already treated theme of unity–diversity. This continuation can therefore be regarded as further variations on this theme, with the accent placed somewhat differently from case to case. Parallel to the desire of the deceased to be able to assume whatever form he desires, runs the wish to be able to transport himself to whatever place he wants. In both cases, the bA concept plays a decisive role. Change and movement hang closely together. The geographical localization of the forms of the four-headed Chnum, noted just above, is a good example of this. The common Egyptian hymnic form usually called litany builds on this theology: the god is invoked in all his names, which correspond to the concrete form—bA—the god has in all his places. These enumerations thus turn out to be a genuine praise of the omnipresent god. It is not difficult to recognize the authentically Egyptian tone of the proclamation of Isis in Apuleius: En adsum . . . deorum dearumque facies uniformis . . . cuius numen unicum multiformi specie, ritu vario, nomine multiiugo totus veneratur orbis.(107) It was certainly not Egyptian deities alone who made their appearance making such claims in the world of late antiquity. But the key to how the mutually contradictory facies uniformis and multiformi specie were successfully united is best supplied by the bA concepts discussed here. Ubiquity, however, is not simply a matter of presence in all the cult places within the ever expanding Egyptian horizon. This concerns not only immanence, in which bA as a designation of “incarnation animal” and cult object, which were viewed as symbolizing a deity’s presence, was put to such rich use.(108) It is also a question of transcendence: his or her domicile in the sky. It would actually be superfluous to exemplify this often strongly accented side of the bA concept, which appears as early as from the Pyramid Texts’ designation of the sky goddess as “She with a thousand bAs,” and which can be exemplified in closer detail by the notions that Orion was the bA of Osiris and the star Sothis that of Isis, or by “the living bAw of the gods” as the name of the decan stars, etc.(109)

The common notion in late temple rituals that the bA of a deity descends from the sky to take up its home in the cult statue (or the like) is easily understood against the backdrop of this transcendent conception of bA, while at the same time, this point of view breaks out of a one-sidedly transcendent framework. And this is, in our context, a very important point. In this context, as well as in the funerary context, bA specifically represents the dynamic principle connecting the sky to the earth and life outside the tomb to life within the tomb. Mobility is an essential characteristic of bA—could this in itself be the explanation of the writing with the bird sign? Let it be that one could evince a certain preference for bA’s home in the sky—like the gods generally—and with that, note a preference in this connection for picturing bA in various bird forms.(110) But there is a great risk of misunderstanding: the distance between sky and earth was bridged as easily as the bird form could be changed into entirely different forms.

We have every reason to stress this dynamic character of bA, for an inadequate understanding of it has evidently contributed much to the understanding of bA as “soul,” according to the traditional western dualistic way of looking at things. A statement such as the following from the Book of the Dead,(111) your bA belongs to the sky, your corpse to the netherworld,” undeniably could easily be explained according to this dualistic scheme. And when Plutarch asserts in De Iside et Osiride that the Egyptians kept the bodies of the gods amongst themselves, while their souls (psychai) shone as stars in the sky, we might seem to hear an echo of such a concept. Let us, however, consider that in a Coffin Text we find the phrase, “your bA is in the earth, your body is in the netherworld,”(112) and in a tomb text from Dynasty 18, the formula, “your body belongs to the earth, your bA is in the netherworld.”(113) This warns us against fixing the location of bA. A number of representations of the tomb also illustrate the bA bird on its way from or to the tomb. Dualistic statements of the first type must therefore be balanced by texts and pregnant expressions(114) evoking the union bA–body, which were produced thanks to the mobility and activity of bA.(115) Further, the circumstance that such corporeal things as food and drink, along with sexual potency, are so often connected with bA, should have constituted ample warning against playing body and bA against one another, as also often occurs in the Egyptological literature.

Let us conclude this little excursus, which yet one more time has stressed the difficulty of translating bA as “soul,” by drawing the following conclusion from our citation of statements falling directly under the rubric of this section. BA’s home in the sky does not stand in the way of a location elsewhere: bA belongs to the sky, the earth, and the netherworld.

c. Abstract–concrete

What will be noted here does not constitute a new facet of the bA concept. Rather, it is a question of an accentuation and further development of relationships already touched on. In particular, the discussion of immanence and transcendence in the preceding section hangs intimately together with the issue adumbrated in the heading of this one.

If we seek a unifying concept that can in itself embrace all the various aspects and functions of bA with which we were occupied earlier, we must necessarily turn to abstract concepts. For example, we can, with Wolf-Brinkmann, recommend “Gestaltfähigkeit.” In this case, too, associations with “soul” have led to a stress on the abstract side of notions of bA. We are therefore well justified in stressing the extent to which bA is used for what we conceive of as very concrete objects. We can readily think of the usage, which especially flourished in the Late Period, of calling the so-called incarnation animals bA. Certainly, no one will maintain that this could be a question of, e.g., the Apis bull as Ptah’s “soul” in the sense that we usually ascribe to the term. To maintain that in this case the “body,” as bearer of the “soul,” receives the designation bA would be, in my opinion, an instance of a scarcely to be recommended, un-Egyptian way of looking at things. We must remain content that bA lends itself to an interpretation in both directions: the abstract, as when Amun or Hathor is called bA pure and simple, which surely is best rendered as “god(dess)”; and the more concrete, as is the case, e.g., with some cult implements, which also can be called bA. Or perhaps we should better express it thus, that the labels “abstract” and “concrete” quite simply do not suit the bA concept, though they can serve to illustrate its impressive range.

d. Function as life force

Perhaps the most common epithet of bA is anxy “living.”(116) That the gods are the lords of life, the living in the highest sense, is a concept the Egyptians shared with most peoples. “The living” is, as Junker has noted,(117) a common epithet in the Old Kingdom, and “Life” can serve as a designation of deities as well as kings.(118) But these qualifications received a special stress in Egypt, where even the death of deities was a possibility, as witnessed by divine tombs and the like. That bA as divine manifestation is characterized by the epithet “living” is entirely consistent with the Egyptian concept of the divine, at the same time as its frequency receives its explanation in the fact that it is a question of life threatened by, but triumphant over death. It is probably just this circumstance that lies behind the prominent position we noted above of the bA’s role in Papyrus Salt 825, which deals with what occurs in the “House of Life.”

How intimately bA and life hung together for the Egyptians is clear in many ways. If they wished to mention total annihilation, they could easily speak of the destruction of the bA. The denial of someone’s existence was expressed by maintaining that the bA of the person in question no longer existed. To be sure, the contradictory combination “dead bAw” can be found in a few instances,(119) but a closer analysis of these shows either that it is a question of bipolar formulations for totality in which “living bAw and dead bAw” has the same function as, e.g., the phrase “what exists and what does not exist,” or else that it serves as a designation of the enemies of Re and Osiris, whose bAw no longer exist.

Given this background, it is tempting to translate bA as “life principle.” But in such a case, we must bear in mind that at the same time, it is concrete life that is meant. BA (anxy) can often best be rendered as “progeny, seed.” I note here the Ram of Mendes as the living bA of Re, Shu, Geb, and Osiris and the so-called Sons of Horus as the bAw of Horus according to Pyr. 1201. In this connection, it is useful to consider an interesting passage in the legend of Hatshepsut’s birth.(120) When Amun enters the queen’s apartment, he is met with the cry, “Lord, how great, indeed, is your bAw,” a greeting that recalls the one customarily directed to Pharaoh by captured enemies, where bAw is usually rendered “power.”(121) The proclamation Amun later makes over the engendered child evidently refers to her introduction: “My bA belongs to her.” The circumstance that bA occurs here and not bAw, as would be expected both from the concurrent usage and from the actual context, already causes hesitation in translating the words in one and the same way. Although the vague term “power” is in and of itself well suited to the enumeration continued in Amun’s speech, I would prefer to translate bA here as “life” or “life force.” And in regard to bAw, I cannot escape being troubled by the difference between the relationship of the queen to the god and that of the captured enemy chiefs to Pharaoh, and I wonder whether the greeting really has the same meaning in both cases. Starting from the concrete context, the conception, I would be inclined to the view that the concrete meaning “sexual potency” underlies bAw here. This might seem to be a bold interpretation. But as general background here, I wish to stress the very marked tendency in funerary texts to associate sexual potency specifically with bA.(122) It can suffice as evidence to adduce a proclamation from chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead: “He is the bA of Re, by means of which he copulates with himself.”(123) This passage in any case suggests the concrete connection between bA and phallus, as other texts(124) directly declare. Such statements teach us how concretely bA could be interpreted as life force and giver of life. When Osiris bears the name “the renowned bA” (Pyr. 2108b) precisely in Nedit, the place where the mysterious conception of Horus was localized, a corresponding sort of interpretation has reason on its side. We can also call to mind that the appearance of bAwy.fy in Mendes occurred through an embrace. And in this context, it is further worth pointing out that the numerous bA speculations connected with various rams (as bA) can profitably be correlated with concrete concepts of this sort. We should also note the tendency, especially in the Late Period, to incorporate specific relationships to various ram forms into the titularies of queens. This circumstance, along with the striking information on a stela at Abu Simbel that Ptah, in the form of the Ram of Mendes, engendered Ramesses II in his mother’s womb,(125) are worth noting in considering the passage in the Hatshepsut legend which we have been discussing. We shall allow this passage to be the last vignette in the series of texts and representations that earlier passed in review. I believe that this passage is well suited to illustrate both the possibility and the difficulty of interpreting the import of bA–bAw.


Before we bid our final farewell to this conceptual world, whose richness would be difficult to exaggerate, it would be in place to summarize briefly the three main goals of my treatment of the material.

First, it was important to me to anchor the bA concept in the divine world. It was bA as form of divine manifestation that interested us in the first place. In my opinion, this is also the best starting place for understanding other aspects and employments of the concept, though here I have had the possibility of presenting them only to a limited extent.

Second, I have regarded it as essential to illustrate, with examples of various sorts, how bA(w), in a way that is fascinating but difficult to grasp, is able to unite in itself unity and diversity, transcendence and immanence, abstract and concrete. I have tried to convey a glimpse of the rich and varied Egyptian speculations concerning this key concept, speculations whose ingenuity can be recognized by a westerner only after very close study. In analyzing individual texts, I have also pointed to possible concrete interpretations of bA(w).

Third, the account has accommodated several warnings against rendering bA as “soul.” Certainly, it can sometimes be practical to resort to this conventional translation.(126) And considering the wide range of uses exhibited by the word “soul” in the literature of the history of religions, this could be justified. But the very vagueness inherent in the concept—along with the special signification associated with “soul” in the Greek and western tradition—speak in favor of sticking to bA so as better to guarantee its uniqueness, both in relation to the so-called “concepts of soul” of other cultures and in relation to a series of occasionally parallel concepts of the Egyptians themselves. Not least in consideration of this evident polypsychism(127) in the Egyptian conceptual realm, it is doubtless wisest to let bA be bA.


1. As an example, we can cite H. Ringgren and A. V. Ström, Religionerna i historia och nutid, 4th ed., Stockholm 1968, p. 52. Back to text.

2. Elske Marie Wolf-Brinkmann, Versuch einer Deutung des Begriffes ‘bA’ anhand der Überlieferung der Frühzeit und des Alten Reiches (diss. Basel), Freiburg i. Br. 1968. Back to text.

3. Louis V. Zabkar, A Study of the Ba Concept in Ancient Egyptian Texts, Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 34, Chicago 1968. Back to text.

4. W. Barta, Das Gespräch eines Mannes mit seinem Ba (Papyrus Berlin 3024), Münchner ägyptologischer Studien 18, Berlin 1969, esp. chap. “Die Vorstellung vom Ba” (pp. 68 ff.), and further the first part of J. Bergman, Isis-Seele und Osiris-Ei: Zwei ägyptologische Studien zu Diodorus Siculum I, 27, 4-5, Acta Univ. Ups., Historia Religionum 4, Uppsala 1970, pp. 30ff. Back to text.

5. Wolf-Brinkmann confines herself, as her title indicates, solely to a treatment of the earliest text material, a restriction that is motivated, inter alia, by the frequency of names with bA. Her interpretation of bA(w), which is here energetically pursued and with which we shall be concerned later, proceeds from the meaning “Gestaltsfähigkeit,” with “der (die) Gestaltfähige(n)” or “Verkörperung(en)” or “Erscheinungsbild(er)” as alternative proposed translations.—Zabkar’s monograph affords the first all-round treatment of the bA concept. In five chapters, which are for the most part developed chronologically, bA is studied in detail in relation to the gods and the king, with its occurrences in the Coffin Texts and in didactic literature, along with the New Kingdom and the Late Period. Z. emphatically objects to the understanding of bA as “soul” in a dualistic anthropological–theological system, instead maintaining that bA represents the totality of man’s—and god’s—physical and psychic capacity. Z. usually leaves bA untranslated but proceeds from the expression “manifestation of power.”—The point of departure for Barta is, of course, the role that bA plays as the interlocutor of the man weary of life in the well-known Papyrus Berlin 3024. B. therefore concentrates on evidence concerning bA as a “concrete, independently acting part of man” (p. 68). With a total of 60 elucidative examples, though from later periods, he attempts to demonstrate that the concept of bA in this respect remained the same through the ages, even though the range of uses widened (p. 97).—My study is especially concerned with the representation of Bastet as the bA of Isis and the theological and cultic expressions of this concept in Bubastis. Back to text.

6. R. O. Faulkner, The Plural and Dual in Old Egyptian, Brussels 1929, pp. 41 f., § 36 (“phonetic false plurals”). Sir Alan Gardiner, Egyptian Grammar, 3d ed., London 1957, p. 60, § 77:1. G. Lefebvre, Grammaire de l’égyptien classique, 2d ed., Cairo 1955, p. 72, § 122. E. Edel, Altägyptische Grammatik. I, Rome 1955, p. 102, § 234. Cf. further Wolf-Brinkmann, p. 92, n. 3 on the unclarity regarding the formation of abstracts in Egyptian. Back to text.

7. Faulkner, op. cit., pp. 3 f., § 1 (cf. also § 2). Back to text.

8. Wolf-Brinkmann’s collection (pp. 9 ff.) includes seven royal names (a 1-7), of which, however, the majority represent uncertain readings; 5 pyramid names (b 1-4); 45 personal names, of which 18 are written with bA (c 1-7, 9-18) and 27 with bAw (c 8, 19-44); 3 ship names (d 1-3); and 24 names of domains (e 1-24). Back to text.

9. Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., pp. 14 f., nos. c 3-12. Back to text.

10. The Egyptian word for “ram” is bA and consequently constitutes a homonym of the concept at the center of our interest. We shall have occasion to return to the consequences of this for the writing and interpretation of bA. Back to text.

11. For discussion of the deviant writing (a false plural) in this case, see E. Edel, “Beiträge zur ägypischen Grammatik 2,” ZÄS 84 (1959), p. 109, with which W.-Br. concurs (p. 14 and p. 95, n. 25). Back to text.

12. Cf. the evident short forms 17 a and b (Wolf-Brinkmann, p. 16). In this connection, the two pyramid names “Neferirkare is bA” and “Kakai is bA” should be considered (ibid., p. 11, no. b 2). Here, bA should perhaps rather be regarded as a substantive, and therewith, the pyramid seen as a concrete form of Pharaoh. In this way, the different grammatical constructions in the personal names (with the divine name in proleptic position) should be more clearly distinguished from the latter. In a similar understanding of the pyramid name bAw-Ity (ibid., p. 11, nr. b 4), this need not be understood as an abbreviated form. Back to text.

13. See nos. a 2, a 4, and a 5—both the latter, however, probably a later reinterpretation—b 3, d 1, and d 2 (ibid., pp. 9, 10, 11, 25). Back to text.

14. This understanding of both these names—which appear analogously in a fixed official titulary—as parallel expressions seems to me preferable to W.-Br.’s interpretation (p. 25), according to which the latter name should be understood as an abbreviated form. Back to text.

15. See Wolf-Brinkmann, p. 20 (no. c 28-31) and p. 11 (no. b 1; this pyramid name is the only one to display a singular writing). Back to text.

16. Cf. further no. c 32 xai-bAw (ibid., p. 20). W.-Br. takes this as an abbreviated name, in which the divine name has fallen away. One could, however, understand bAw here as the designation of one (or more) divine power(s), comparing it with the Horus name xai-bA of a pharaoh of the Third Dynasty (see ibid., p. 9; further comparable material is furnished ibid., p. 11, no. 7 and p. 94, n. 16). The name “The gods reveal themselves” could, for example, be the designation of a cult festival—as W.-Br. plausibly assumes otherwise for this group of names. Back to text.

17. L. Borchardt, Das Grabdenkmal des Königs Ne-user-Re, Leipzig 1907, p. 94 and fig. 72. Back to text.

18. This restoration of the fragmentary inscription by Sethe is quite probable. Back to text.

19. There is here a typical Egyptian “wordplay” (see Bergman, op. cit., p. 31 with nn. 1 and 2). Back to text.

20. Pyr. 785b, 1285a, 1303c. In the first occurrence we find an important combination with the word sbA “star.” Notwithstanding W.-Br.’s objections (p. 102, n. 129), there should be, at least in this concrete instance, an interpretation of sbA as deriving from bA, thus “the one who reveals his form (or sim.).” Back to text.

21. A. Erman and H. Grapow, Wörterbuch der ägyptische Sprache III, p. 230. Back to text.

22. See esp. p. 8. Back to text.

23. S. Schott, Mythe und Mythenbildung im alten Ägypten (Unters. z. Geschichte u. Altertumskunde Ägyptens, Band XV), Leipzig 1945, pp. 97 ff. Cf. also K. Sethe, Kommentar Pyr. III, p. 142. Back to text.

24. NTr is written with a banner (see R 8 in Gardiner’s sign list), which probably symbolizes the god’s presence (in cult places, etc.) and ownership/lordship. The meaning of the word is obscure. To connect it with the homonym nTr “natron” (so, e.g., F. W. v. Bissing, Versuch zur Bestimmung der Grundbedeutung des Wortes NUTR für Gott im Altägyptischen, Sitzungsbericht d. Akad. d. Wiss. z. Berlin 1951:2) is not very convincing. Back to text.

25. So Schott, op. cit., p. 98. Back to text.

26. H. Kees, Der Götterglaube im alten Ägypten, Leipzig 1941, p. 156, n. 2. Back to text.

27. The name formulae in the original build on a typical punning on the words rendered here as “climb” and “ladder.” Back to text.

28. The gods who bear this function are called simply the bAw of Buto and the bAw of Hierakonpolis in Pyr. 1253a, while in the later parallel version Pyr. 1473-1474 they are instead just named the “gods of the sky” and “gods of the earth.” (Other designations of those who fashion a heavenly ladder for Pharaoh also occur, e.g., Pyr. 994-995; cf. Zabkar, op. cit., p. 36, n. 229.) Back to text.

29. Note in this connection that in the royal ideology, tAwy is not only construed as Upper and Lower Egypt, but is sometimes interpreted as a dual a majore for tA + pt “earth and sky” (see J. Bergman, Ich bin Isis, Uppsala 1968, p. 149, n. 3). Back to text.

30. Same “wordplay” as in the earlier citation (Pyr. 479a). Back to text.

31. The different versions display different persons here. I follow here the same interpretation as R. O. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, Oxford 1969, p. 163, nn. 3 and 4. The speaker is Geb—note Nut–Geb as a third bipolar expression in the context! (Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., p. 70, prefers a different interpretation.) Back to text.

32. Pyr. 1209b specifically names nTrw iAbtyw—in parallelism, moreover, with nTrw P. In my opinion, this is a revised statement, in which nTrw is inserted in place of bAw in both cases (compare what was established above from the juxtaposition of Pyr. 1089a and Pyr. 1374a). Back to text.

33. Op. cit., p. 77. Back to text.

34. The same designation also recurs CT II, p. 67. Back to text.

35. See, e.g., Bergman, Isis-Seele, p. 56, n. 2, where a number of examples are given of Sopdu in this bellicose solar role. Back to text.

36. In this connection, we can note that “the northern bAw” and “the western bAw” are also mentioned in the later Books of the Netherworld (see, e.g., the indexes to Le Livre du jour et de la nuit, ed. Piankoff and Le Livre des Quererets, ed. Piankoff, s.v. bAw). Back to text.

37. This translation of rwi is meant to do justice to two circumstances: on the one hand, that the verb in question often otherwise designates a type of dancing, and on the other hand, that the determinative in the passage in question here distinctly shows a hand beating with a stick. Back to text.

38. So also Zabkar’s understanding (op. cit., p. 35, n. 226), while Sethe expresses a degree of doubt in his commentary on this passage. Cf. also Wolf-Brinkmann, pp. 66 f. Back to text.

39. This ritual has been studied especially by H. Junker in his paper, “Der Tanz der Mww und das butische Begräbnis,” MDAIK 9 (1940), in which the author wishes to identify Mww with bAw P. On this, see Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., pp. 67 ff., where this identification is convincingly dismissed. (Zabkar, however, concurs with Junker’s thesis, op. cit., p. 19). Back to text.

40. See Kees, Götterglaube, pp. 279 f., and cf. also K. Sethe, Urgeschichte und älteste Religion der Ägypter, Leipzig 1930, p. 18. In another connection, (ibid., p. 157), however, Kees clearly takes exception to the understanding that in early times, bAw overall entailed a classification as lower divine beings. Back to text.

41. Ibid., p. 280. Back to text.

42. One can note that the bAw of Heliopolis, which the Heliopolitan redactors otherwise often inserted alongside the two other, evidently earlier groups, are not mentioned here. Kees (ibid., p. 280) utilizes this circumstance as an argument against the interpretation that in all three cases, bAw designates the deceased, deified rulers of the respective locales. His argumentation, however, is anything but conclusive. In my opinion, the absence of the bAw Iwnw here probably has its simple explanation in that (representatives of) these gods head the list of the gods who are named, for which reason the anonymous collective designation pertaining to Heliopolis was unnecessary in context. Back to text.

43. So., e.g., Kees, ibid.,, p. 157; S. Morenz, Ägyptische Religion, Stuttgart 1960, p. 165; Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., p. 65. See further Zabkar’s comprehensive collection of material (op. cit., pp. 8-11). Back to text.

44. Esp. Beiträge zur ältesten Geschichte Ägyptens (Untersuchungen . . . 3), Leipzig 1905, pp. 16 ff. and last in Urgeschichte und älteste Religion der Ägypter, pp. 105 f., 140 ff. Back to text.

45. Manetho, ed. Waddell, frgm. 1, 2, 4, 6, and 7a + b give the basic material. For discussion of early understandings, see most recently W. Kaiser, “Einige Bemerkungen zur ägyptischen Frühzeit II” (ZÄS 86, 1961, pp. 39 ff.), p. 56. Back to text.

46. Most recent edition, A. H. Gardiner, The Royal Canon of Turin, Oxford 1959. The actual groups here are to be found col. II 1-3. Back to text.

47. W. Kaiser, “Einige Bemerkungen zur ägyptischen Frühzeit I. Zu den Smsw Hr” (ZÄS 84, 1959, pp. 119-132; ZÄS 85, 1960, pp. 118-137). Back to text.

48. ZÄS 84, 1959, pp. 119 f. Back to text.

49. Pyr. 26f, 897a, 921a and 1245e—esp. in connection with the purification of the king. To be sure, one could speak here of a certain subordination in respect to the king (“Horus-service”). Since the same relationship is true even of the great gods named in this text collection, one naturally cannot cite this as evidence for classifying Smsw Hr as “gods of lower rank” from this context. Back to text.

50. So, e.g., when it is a question of their function as royal bearers. It should be noted in this connection, though, that this can be verified only for Smsw Hr in the Old Kingdom, and that it is only from the time of the New Kingdom that the groups of bAw figure in this role. Back to text.

51. A. H. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs, Oxford 1961, p. 421, gives a striking example from a papyrus of the Roman period. Here, “bAw P, Smsw Hr are referred to as kings of Lower Egypt” along with “bAw Nxn Smsw Hr as kings of Upper Egypt.” In an inscription from Dynasty 12 (from Assiut), however, bAw Nxn, the jackals, nTrw Smsw Hr already appear in such a way that it can be a question of a single group of gods (cf. further Zabkar, op. cit., pp. 20 ff.). In this case, moreover, the express classification as nTrw should be observed. Back to text.

52. Cf. J. A. Wilson, “Buto and Hierakonpolis in the Geography of Egypt,” (Journal of Near Eastern Studies 14, 1955, pp. 209-236). Back to text.

53. Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., pp. 58-59, provides a good overview of the places in which bA occurs in such lists of qualities. Back to text.

54. See, e.g., Pyr. 754c and 2108b, where Osiris receives all three designations. This circumstance is so much more worth noting, as is the fact that the word nTr is connected precisely with Osiris in a special way in the hymns in the Pyramid Texts (see Schott, op. cit., p. 98). Back to text.

55. Inter alia, Pyr. 752b-753a, 833b-c, 1730b, 1921d-e, and 2120b (see further Wolf-Brinkmann, pp. 58 ff. and 100, n. 97). Here, I should like to recall the important role played by the female figures Ba(stet) and Sakhmet in the Egyptian pantheon (see Bergman, Isis-Seele, pp. 36 ff.—esp. 4. 42, n. 3—and 45 ff.). Back to text.

56. The singular form is well worth noting in this connection. R. O. Faulkner, The Plural and Dual in Old Egyptian, p. 7, § 4, adduces this passage as an example of the rule for employment of the singular instead of the expected plural in connection with parts of the body and the like. Since Axw displays a plural writing (like Swt “shadows,” 413c), however, one can inquire with reason whether another explanation should not be sought here (see below). Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., p. 100, n. 97, intimates instead—following Morenz—the possibility of understanding a plural writing for an abstract. In such a case, though, one would correspondingly have expected bA(w), which, differently from Axw, is already well attested in this function. Back to text.

57. This is a name of Abydos, the chief city of the Thinite nome, so that effectively, there is no difference between the two text passages. Back to text.

58. Note the following common meanings of the causative forms of Ax: sAx “to glorify” and sAxw “ritual formulae (that serve this purpose).” Back to text.

59. So H. Kees, Totenglauben und Jenseitsvorstellungen der alten Aegypter, Leipzig 1926, pp. 57 f., and esp. E. Otto, “Die beiden vogelgestaltigen Seelenvorstellungen der Ägypter” (ZÄS 77, 1942, pp. 78-91), pp. 87 ff. Here, we cannot discuss this important study by Otto in detail. Let me merely maintain that I am of a different opinion on several points (e.g., that Ax, more than bA, could be connected with nTr, and that bA was not considered as “Ganzheitsbegriff” to the same extent as Ax). Moreover, his title is already to a certain degree misleading, since the bird form of Ax, unlike that of bA, is only epigraphically conditioned and never finds concrete representation. Back to text.

60. For this special genre of dictionary, see the introduction to A. H. Gardiner, Ancient Egyptian Onomastica I, Oxford 1947. Back to text.

61. BA generally does not figure in the onomastica treated by Gardiner. The lists of all sorts of creatures mentioned in the continuation show that there apparently existed onomastica that were more detailed on this point. Back to text.

62. The parallel nekues kai hoi daimones in P. Bibl. Nat. 1453 is also striking. Back to text..

63. A collection and examination of parallels to the enumeration in P. Salt 825 remains an important task. Some references are given in the commentary to the publication by P. Derchain, Le Papyrus Salt 825, Brussels 1965, p. 147, n. 9, where affinities to P. Dem. Mag. London-Leiden IX r. 21-22 are especially highlighted. Here, bA plays, in a certain way, an even more dominating role—but as an attribute of gods, people, etc. (In my opinion, this is probably secondary in relation to the list in Papyrus Salt.) Compare further the collection of passages from the Amduat collected by Zabkar, p. 38, nn. 249 and 251. R. O. Faulkner, An Ancient Egyptian Book of Hours, 5 r. x + 23-6 r. 9 displays a different and apparently miscellaneous sequence. Back to text.

64. “Der Eine und die Vielen, Ägyptische Gottesvorstellungen” is the title of an announced work by the German Egyptologist E. Hornung. Back to text.

65. Cf., e.g., E. Otto, “Monotheistische Tendenzen in der ägyptische Religion” (Die Welt des Orients 2, 1955, 99-110). Back to text.

66. For formulations that express this tension (e.g., god, “the one who turns into millions”), see my lecture, “Mystische Anklänge in der altägyptischen Vorstellungen von Gott und Welt” (Åbo 1968), which will shortly appear in Scripta Instituti Donneriani Abbensis V. Back to text.

67. Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., p. 111, n. 267 gives further references for the determination of species and rightly dismisses the designation “jabiru” so common in the literature. Back to text.

68. Ibid., pp. 90 f. Back to text.

69. See Bergman, Isis-Seele, pp. 35 f., n. 4 with further references. Back to text.

70. Faulkner translates the passage, “He shall not possess a leopard-skin.” Without rejecting this concrete rendering, I wish to stress that the parallel with the verb wAS “to honor, give added strength (and the like)” seems to me to recommend the interpretation, “he shall not be bA in leopard form.” Back to text.

71. See H. Junker, Das Götterdekret über das Abaton, Vienna 1913, p. 5. A combination of bA in its feminine form bAt with a bovine form might be attested already in the oldest period in the Bat symbol (see Bergman, Isis-Seele, pp. 38 f.), if we are dealing here with the same word.Back to text.

72. So G. Jéquier, Les Pyramides des reines Neit et Apouit, Cairo 1933, Pl. XXIII. Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., p. 103, n. 143, who also notes these parallels, additionally cites Nt 734 as an example of a hybrid form (Horus falcon with ram’s horns). This is evidently an error (Jéquier’s publication, Pl. XXVII ad locum incorporates only bird traits), evidently caused by confusion with Nt 724, where the two writings of sit “ewe” display similarly mixed features. This might, however, be only indirectly connected with the evidence for bA which occurs in the wider context.Back to text.

73. See. e.g., C. Firth and J. E. Quibell, The Step Pyramid I, Cairo 1935, fig. 16. In regard to the Pyramid Texts, it can be noted that the writing as monogram is the common one, except in the later version N (= Pepi II), where the monogram falls off.Back to text.

74. Monograms with two animals occur (Gardiner sign list G 2, G 18, G 44, G 50, and I 11—with which T 16 can be included), but what is involved are phonetic writings (the unusual and uncertain G 50 possibly constitutes an exception), not ideograms. The signs G 48-49—and W 17—are even less suitable as comparative material, since these thrice repeated objects constitute only part of a larger composition.Back to text.

75. Pyr. 992c constitutes a direct parallel—but with an interchange of concepts in parts 2 and 3.Back to text.

76. For further material, see Zabkar, p. 55.Back to text.

77. It is interesting that HkAw, written with a tripling of the kA-sign, appears here as a parallel concept, since the same question can be posed concerning this word form, which also occurs in the personification Hike.Back to text.

78. See ibid., pp. 55, 67, and 134 (with n. 59).Back to text.

79. The singular bA can also designate a collective of gods, thus bA dmD “the collective bA” at Edfu (see ibid., p. 11 with n. 47).Back to text.

80. So Urk. IV 140.7. Zabkar, op. cit., p. 63, n. 72 also cites ibid., 103.16, which is, however, supplied by Sethe.—Bengt Birkstam will also deal with the role of bA in this regard in his treatment of royal ideology in the documents of Dynasty XVIII. Thus, we shall not detain ourselves with this at greater length. Let me simply point out that the use of bAw instead of bA is entirely predominant here, which makes a passage from the birth legend of Hatshepsut (Urk. IV 221), to which we shall return below, especially interesting, for there, bA and bAw appear in one and the same context.Back to text.

81. F. Ll. Griffith and H. Thompson, The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden, London 1904, p. 71 (note ad locum).Back to text.

82. Wolf-Brinkmann’s work presents, to my way of thinking, a number of examples of this.Back to text.

83. See p. 60 above. [The reference is to the paragraph containing the references to notes 53-56--D.L.] Back to text. 84. Ibid., n. 53.Back to text.

85. The most important literature on this theme is cited in R. Grieshammer, Das Jenseitsgericht in den Sargtexten, Wiesbaden 1970, p. 115, n. 714. Zabkar treats this problematic in a special section (op. cit., pp. 36-39).Back to text.

86. CT IV, pp. 276 ff. Naville, TB I, Pl. XXIV, ll. 51 ff.Back to text.

87. See M4C, p. 276a and c, M1C, p. 277c.Back to text.

88. That this is a fixed term is clear from the continuation, in which bAwy.fy and TAwy.fy (“his two children”) are treated each for itself (pp. 276-277c and 280-281b). Barguet’s translation of the introductory word (Le Livre des morts, p. 60), which in and of itself is quite possible, does not do justice to it.Back to text.

89. About a third of the attestations of this passage omit the additional qualifiers here.Back to text.

90. Note the more detailed wording in M57C (p. 277d): “the great bA of Osiris.”Back to text.

91. The determination with a single divine form, which occurs twice in this context, speaks clearly for this translation—and respectively, “Double bA,” not “The two bAs,” for those exemplars which consistently write bAwy, without suffix.Back to text.

92. For the older version, the reader is referred to M.S.H.G. Heerma van Voss, De oudste versie van dodenboek 17a (diss. Amsterdam, 1963), pp. 42 f. and 78-80.Back to text.

93. For similar modes of thought, see Kees, Götterglaube, p. 165.Back to text.

94. De Wit, Opet, pp. 91 and 121 (cf. further pp. 31 and 110).Back to text.

95. The hymn is most easily accessible in de Buck, Egyptian Readingbook, pp. 110 ff. (the passage in question here is to be found on p. 110, l. 5).Back to text.

96. For references, see Zabkar, op. cit., p. 37, nn. 240 and 241. Here (pp. 36 ff.), there is further material suited to illuminate the extraordinarily multifaceted concepts surrounding the identification of Re and Osiris.Back to text.

97. These and several more examples of this are collected ibid., p. 12. For Bastet as the bA of Isis, see Bergman, Isis-Seele.Back to text.

98. Chap. 64. Naville, TB, Pl. LXXV, l. 11.Back to text.

99. Ägyptische Religion, p. 152.Back to text.

100. For the anchoring of the number four in this last, see my lecture, “Mystische Anklänge.”Back to text.

101. Another interpretation of the number four is found Pyr. 2101 in connection with Horus: here, the four so-called Sons of Horus are stated to be his bAw.Back to text.

102. The hieroglyphic sign here is not entirely clear. Alternatively, one can consider the translation “the heir of Re.” The latter interpretation also brings out the aspect of unity.Back to text.

103. The four faces of the sun, which are well suited to connect the sun concretely with the four cardinal directions, are already mentioned Pyr. 1207b. For additional intimations of the fourfold form of the sun, see Wolf-Brinkmann, op. cit., pp. 51 f.Back to text.

104. Sauneron, Esna II, text no. 17, ll. 46 ff. The text can be found translated by H. Kees in A. Bertholet’s Religionsgeschichtliche Lesebuch 10 (text no. 25).Back to text.

105. K. Sethe, Amun und die acht Urgötter von Hermopolis, Berlin 1929, p. 40.Back to text.

106. See Zabkar, p. 11, n. 52.Back to text.

107. Apuleius, Metamorphoses XI, 5.Back to text.

108. See the collection of material in Zabkar, op. cit., pp. 13 ff.Back to text.

109. Reference can be made here to Bergman, Isis-Seele, pp. 41 ff., and for the role of the stars in funerary context, to Zabkar, op. cit., p. 127, n. 13.Back to text.

110. I call to mind that bAw P, who play a more independent role in the Pyramid Texts than bAw Nxn, are called “the gods in the sky” and—at least later—are consistently represented in the form of birds. A late papyrus in Berlin professes to identify bAw P as falcon, kite, and vulture (Sethe, in his commentary to Pyr. 478). The richness of variation in regard to the bA bird in funerary contexts has been noted in detail in L. Klebs, “Der ägyptische Seelenvogel,” ZÄS 61 (1926), pp. 104 ff.Back to text.

111. Chap. 169, Naville, TB, pl. CXC, l. 3. For other, similar formulations, see Zabkar, op. cit., p. 111, n. 139.Back to text.

112. CT I, p. 56. Cf. CT I, p. 8b “your bA, which is in the earth.”Back to text.

113. See Zabkar, p. 111, n. 138.Back to text.

114. Here, I am thinking of, e.g., the designation of the Buchis bull as bA Hr XAtbA and body” (see R. Mond and O. Myers, The Bucheum II, London 1934, pp. 38 f.).Back to text.

115. For the mutual dependence of bA and body , see Zabkar, op. cit., pp. 106 ff.Back to text.

116. Its occurrences are reviewed ibid., pp. 141 f.Back to text.

117. See his study, “Der Lebendige” als Gottesbeiname im Alten Reich, Vienna 1954.Back to text.

118. Attestations of this are to be found in the last section of my lecture, “Mystische Anklänge.”Back to text.

119. See Zabkar, op. cit., pp. 142 f. and the specialized study mentioned ibid., p. 105, n. 103.Back to text.

120. The passage in question is to be found Urk. IV, p. 221.Back to text.

121. See H. Grapow, Wie die alten Ägypter sich anredeten II (Berlin, 1940), p. 50. The phrase is especially common in Dynasty 19, in the scenes of capture at Medinet Habu.Back to text.

122. This is true to an especially high degree in the Coffin Texts. Zabkar, op. cit., pp. 101 ff., gives abundant evidence of this.Back to text.

123. See ibid., p. 103 for discussion of the translation.Back to text.

124. E.g., CT I, pp. 360 ff. (cited ibid., p. 95). Cf., further, the representation of a bA in bird form equipped with a phallus on the well-known naos of Nectanebo (G. Roeder, Naos, Pl. 31).Back to text.

125. See M. Sandman-Holmberg, The God Ptah (Lund, 1946), p. 176.Back to text.

126. Thus, it was for purely practical reasons that after a certain hesitation, I allowed “Isis-Seele” to figure in the title of my study of the bA of Isis.Back to text.

127. For this phenomenon, the reader is referred to the quite recently appeared Tübingen dissertation by Beate George, Zu den altägyptischen Vorstellungen vom Schatten als Seele, Bonn 1970, esp. pp. 18 ff. and 120 ff.Back to text.

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