Sunday, July 14, 2013

A possible interpretation of the SHEDSHED !

The word SHEDSHEDšdšd ) pulls its transliteration (and its pronunciation) of an identical sign (in the pictorial sense) used in the texts of pyramids.

It was the object of numerous interpretations which are not completely convincing.

This object is generally associated with the WepWawet God and very often accompanied with the "uraeus" cobra.

It is not easy to find a meaning in this object.

The artistic sense very stylized by the old Egyptians can lead to forget the representation and the first sense of the studied object.

It is enough to notice the evolution of representation between the beginning of dynastic period (example : Narmer palet)  and the end of the Old Kingdom to convince itself.

This evolution can be understandable, through the centuries, by the way of arresting the object on the iconographic, symbolic aspects, even religious aspect.

Let us not forget that the artists owed respect very precise iconographic rules : the object had to become integrated into the iconography and not the opposite.

The objective of these rules were to deliver a message (more at least symbolism / religious side).

The object so integrated into an artistic space could be modified if the artist considered it necessary.

The task of interpretation is so made more difficult.

The religious aspect is never very far from the artistic space : an object which can have a religious meaning which has necessarily no link with its intrinsic nature.

To finish the tour of the difficulties, we can consider a quality of the old Egyptians : the capacity to observe and to retranscribe objects and seen behaviors !

We so find some time of the similarities enter certain hieroglyphic signs and certain objects (inanimate or animate).

The objective of this article is to propose an interpretation which is going to try to take into account all these aspects.

Possible Interpretation

To begin to make a sketch of interpretation, let us take the iconographic stage as a whole.

We have three components : the SHEDSHED, WepWawet and the "uraeus" cobra.

WepWawet is a canid god (probably a facet of Anubis originally) - he is represented under the features of a "generic" canid species (together of attributes stemming from certain canid species known about this time).

His origin goes back up (at least) at the beginning of the dynastic period.

He aims to be the "opener of the ways" ( wpj wȝwt ) - In several domains : 

  • In the funeral domain, he plays guide's role for the deceased in the underworld - (other associated title : "Lord of the necropolis" - Center of its cult to Assiout and previously Abydos)

  • In the military domain, he is going to be in the side of the royal armies in the conquest of the unknown territories - link with the kingship

The link with the kingship is very narrow because it precedes and/or accompanies the king in certain ceremonies (ex :  heb - sed).

Interesting fact : he is represented very early in the history with the SHEDSHED and (later) with the  "uraeus" cobra.

The "uraeus" cobra of part its religious nature is very close in the kingship in general, even in the symbolism bound to the unification of the High and Lower Egypt.

From a natural point of view, this type of snake can use hollows abandoned by some canid species - we can see certain link with WepWawet there (and the canid aspect which he represents).

The SHEDSHED, as we previously underlined it, made the object of partially convincing studies.

We insisted on the artistic rules of the old Egyptians and especially in the way of treating the natural elements which surrounded them.

If we consider the way which have the artists to represent certain animals which live in hollows (of whom certain canid species living in ancient Egypt are a part), we can move closer to the pictorial shape of a "hollow" to the SHEDSHED of WepWawet (resemblance more strong on the archaic SHEDSHED).

The shape of the SHEDSHED is interesting : it describes a corridor which ends by a kind of round cavity - very sembable in a hollow which consists of a corridor more in the length and which ends by a relatively spacious cavity - cavity used the animal to rest, give birth and rear their pups.

The SHEDSHED could be a global representation of a hollow of a canid species - over time this representation stylized to let appear only the symbolism : the representation of the canid hollow in the pictorial sense was gradually lost during the Old Kingdom for reappear more late.

The linguistic aspect is also interesting - during the Old Kingdom the words with the same root ( šd ) as the SHEDSHED bring the idea of creation of a space or objects which include something.

This space or object which can be emptied and filled according to needs.

The repetition of this root to describe the SHEDSHED of Wepwawet underlines the importance of the creation of this space.

We thus have a double aspect : the link with a hollow used by a canid species and a notion of spatial attributes.

What link can we determine between the SHEDSHED and Wepwawet ?

We considered whom Wepwawet was to "opener of the ways" - it means not only the fact of opening something but also of digging, of removing an obstacle.

Wepwawet is thus capable of opening a way towards something, by removing any obstacle - the SHEDSHED is thus the necessary tool to be able to open this way.

Wepwawet, as royal 
guarantor, open a secure way and perfectly accessible to the king.

He plays a particular role : he "is the one who separates the earth of the sky" - he represents the free space between two zones.

We find that in the texts of pyramids - when king has to rise in heaven, he gets through (or by) the SHEDSHED - in other words he passes by the zone which separates the earth of heaven.

Wepwawet (and its SHEDSHED) are a demonstration of the space in which the revival (in the funeral sense) takes place.

If you loved this article and if you wish to support this project, not to hesitate to download HIERO on the MacApp Store.