THE GODS AKAR AND SEB

By P. le Page Renouf

[Extracted from PSBA, 15, 385-6.]

 

In order to understand the nature of the god [glyphs] Akar, we have to imagine a tunnel starting from the spot where the sun sets, and extending through the earth as far as where the sun rises. Each end of the tunnel has a sphinx-like form. A human-headed lion stands at the entrance and also at the terminus. It is through the paws of this double sphinx that the galley of the Sun-god enters on the Western horizon and comes out on the Eastern.

In the picture Plate XIV, taken from the tomb of Rameses IV, [glyphs], Fair Entrance, is written at one end of the tunnel: [glyphs], Fair Exit, at the other. As the solar bark could not be represented inside the dark tunnel, it is placed above.1 The Sun-god in the lower world is represented with the head of a ram. He generally grasps in his hand a serpent called [glyphs] (var. [glyphs]) afu, his enemy,2 [glyphs] who in several pictures has, like the serpent of Moses (Ex. iv, 4), grown into "a rod in his hand." But, if the texts are to be trusted, the god himself has the same name with another signification.

Now the Pyramid texts of Pepi I (line 72) mention "the two gates of Akar" as synonymous with "the two gates of Seb."

The picture taken from the tomb of Rameses IX has an inscription which also identifies Akar with Seb as keeping guard over those whom the Earth covers.

Although Akar is specially connected with the two opposite ends the Earth and the dark passage between them, whilst Seb is most frequently mentioned with reference to cheerful phenomena, there is nevertheless a very striking conception of the Earth which is common to both.

[p.386]

The hieroglyphic sign [glyphs] for the Earth is a hollow tube, a reed, flute or pipe. It is already used as a determinative of the divine name Seb, [glyphs], in the Pyramid texts {e.g., Unas, 41 7, Teta, 237), because [glyphs] sha is the name of the reed or pipe. The sign [glyphs] has evidently the same significance in the names of the Goose called [glyphs], the Piper,3 and of the god [glyphs] Seb, as written in the tomb of Seti I. The corresponding Coptic is [Coptic] (in the Memphitic dialect), which has the double value of tibia, first as [Greek], reed, pipe; and secondly as leg-bone.

This fully explains the equation of [glyphs] and of the group [glyphs] so frequent in the Ptolemaic inscriptions. It is because [glyphs] is a tibia that [glyphs] is used as its equivalent.

The Greek word [Greek] is used not only in the sense of a pipe, but of any covered passage, such as the galleries of the royal tombs at Thebes.

It is worth remarking that the wedge [glyphs] which so commonly accompanies [glyphs] as a determinative, is also found as a determinative of the divine name [glyphs] tooth by which the subterranean passages, mines, caverns and the like have been created?

The subterranean journey of the Sun-god through the twelve hours of the night forms the subject of a book, considerable portions of which are inscribed on the walls of the royal tombs and upon coffins, as well as upon papyri; the text being in great part an explanation of the pictures. The most complete account of it is contained in M. Maspero's Hypogees royaux de Thebes, published in the Revue de l'histoire des Religions, in the year 1888.

M. Maspero, however, does not consider the journey as subterranean but as made round the horizon.


NOTES

1 The same picture occurs in the Tombs of Rameses VI and Tauser. In the picture belonging to the Tomb of Rameses IX the god is in the form of a Scarab enclosed in a ring, and represented over the tunnel.
2 See Bonomi, Sarc. 2, D. 35, where [glyphs] appears in parallelism with [glyphs] 42 and 43, and note the form [glyphs].
3 Perhaps Whistler or Hisser.