Appendix 4

THE SURVIVAL OF THE STAR RELIGION

by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert

Within the core-thesis of the Orion Mystery lies not only the correlation theory of the Duat with the Fourth Dynasty pyramid fields but the fact that the dominant religion of the pyramid builders was a star religion, and that the dead kings were supposed to become star souls of Orion. The question is whether the star religion of the Pyramid Age, so vividly expressed in the Pyramid Texts of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties and in the archaeo-astronomical language of the great Fourth Dynasty, persisted through the whole pharaonic era – almost three millennia, from the first native dynasty in 3100BC to the end of the last in c. 525BC, and indeed beyond.

Ancient Egyptian chronology is something of a nightmare, with no two scholars agreeing on precise dates. This is especially so for the earlier dynasties where, according to experts, at least 150 years, plus or minus, must be assumed as the margin of error. But there is a consensus which we will adopt here. The Ancient Egyptians did not, of course, see themselves as dynasties but as a continuous line of kings which began in the First Time when the gods ruled Egypt. They saw Horus, son of Osiris and Isis, as an historical person who became the first man-god to rule Egypt as pharaoh. The term Pharaoh comes from Per-Aa and means ‘Great House’, the pantheon or great divine house from which the kings of Egypt came. All pharaohs saw themselves as the reincarnated Horus, the Living One as opposed to the dead and Reborn Ones who had departed into the astral afterworld and had themselves become an Osiris or star soul.

To conform to modern Egyptological practice, we shall assume the so-called dynastic divisions. Pharaonic Egypt, which lasted from about 3100BC to 332BC – and thus vastly longer than the Greek and Roman put together, and indeed Western civilisation as a whole – included thirty-one distinct dynasties with some 390 monarchs.1 Although there were ‘pharaohs’ after 332BC until AD251, these were not native kings but Macedonian Greeks (Ptolemaic period 332–30BC) and later Roman emperors (Roman period 30BCtoAD251). Including these, there were 439 monarchs who ruled Egypt as pharaohs.2 Egyptologists have thought it best to separate such a lengthy epoch into periods, and these are shown in the Table.3

Dynasty

Period

Years

1–2

Early Dynastic

3100–2686BC

3–6

Old Kingdom

2686–2181BC

7–10

First Intermediate

2181–2133BC

11–12

Middle Kingdom

2133–1786BC

13–17

Second Intermediate

1786–1567BC

18–20

New Kingdom

1567–1080BC

21–25

Late New Kingdom

1080–664BC

26

Sait

664–525BC

27–31

Late

525–332BC

 

Ptolemaic

332–30BC

 

Roman

30BC–AD642

 

Arab

AD642–present

From the evidence in the Pyramid Texts and the monuments themselves, it is clear that the rebirth cult was focused on the king alone or may, at most, have extended to members of the royal family. Only they had a right to an astral rebirth which involved mummification and the complex rituals performed, no doubt, in the pyramid zone of Memphis and even, we suspect, within the pyramid structures.

There can be little doubt that during the epoch of the great Fourth Dynasty the central point of the rebirth rites was Giza, and that the Great Pyramid serviced the apotheosis of an ancient passion play involving the body of the dead king and a royal and priestly congregation. The sharp decline at the close of that dynasty is evident from the smaller and poorly constructed pyramids of the Fifth Dynasty kings at Abusir and Saqqara. From this point, or at least from the end of the Old Kingdom, the royal rebirth cult became more democratised, extending to notables at the court and probably even rich merchants and military men. As the process expanded, it seems likely that more and more commoners were given the right to an astral rebirth, so that by the time of the New Kingdom everyone in Egypt who could afford the expenses of mummification, the elaborate funeral and accompanying paraphernalia, was allowed a life after death with Osiris. However, democratisation brought a gradual corruption of the cult and variation of the rituals to suit the special needs of the deceased and his favourite local gods. In short, the rebirth cult lost its purity and simplicity.

The textual route showing the survival of the stellar rebirth cult is mainly through the various versions of the Book of the Dead, of which the Pyramid Texts is the oldest version. There are also the many inscriptions found in tombs and temples and, of course, the large collections of papyri in museums around the world. A detailed study of all this material is well outside the scope of this book; what we can do is to draw on selected texts which leave no doubt that the Osirian afterlife prevailed throughout the pharaonic era and that the destiny and final form of the dead remained astral – a star soul in the Duat or afterworld kingdom of Osiris.

The persistence of the star religion in the Old Kingdom and Pyramid Age has been presented in this book by investigation of the Pyramid Texts. The next set of textual material to examine – the natural follow up to the Pyramid Texts – is the so-called Coffin Texts of the Middle Kingdom, the epoch which followed the Pyramid Age. Carol Andrews, a senior Egyptologist at the British Museum, says:

The Middle Kingdom (about 2040–1786BC) was a time when funerary beliefs and practices were democratised, when a guaranteed afterlife, which before had been restricted to royalty and great noblemen, became available to all who could acquire the relevant equipment. Now to the Utterances of the Pyramid Texts were added many more spells, and this new repertoire was written not in hieroglyphs but in the cursive script called Hieratic, in closely crowded vertical columns within wooden coffins of commoners. Because of their new locations the spells are now known as the Coffin Texts, and it is they which are direct predecessors of texts written in Book of the Dead papyri of the New Kingdom and later.4

It is pretty clear that the Pyramid Texts were the predecessors of both the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead, which eventually takes us to the Ptolemaic period, the few centuries which predate the early Christian and Gnostic epoch. Carol Andrews goes on to say, ‘A new development in the Coffin Texts is that the sun god is no longer supreme: Osiris is the king under whom the blessed dead hope to spend eternity, the god with whom the dead became assimilated …’5

Andrews also says that in the Coffin Texts a new concept appears: the afterlife is spent in the ‘Fields of Reeds’, where agricultural activities undertaken by the dead mirror the activities in Egypt, so that the ‘Other World was envisaged as an identical environment’.6 The Fields of Reeds is, however, not a new concept of the Coffin Texts but comes from the Pyramid Texts and hence the Pyramid Age. In Faulkner’s edition of the Pyramid Texts the Fields of Reeds are mentioned many times in direct connection with the afterlife destiny and are obviously visualised as a celestial and thus astral landscape which resembles the Nile region of Lower Egypt and are an integral part of the Duat. I. E. S. Edwards says of the Fields Of Reeds: ‘Even in earlier times, however, the Osirian hereafter was probably regarded as a kind of idealised version of this world, situated below the western [sic] horizon and presided over by Osiris. This region, called by the Egyptians the Fields of Reeds, was subsequently known to the Greeks as the Elysian Fields …’7

Edwards remarks emphatically that the Ancient Egyptians ‘regarded the after-life as a kind of mirror of this world’ and that it was a place where the dead ‘spirits could thus dwell at will near Osiris’.

In the Coffin Texts the Nile god says ‘I am he who performs the service of gifts (the harvest) for Osiris at the Great Inundation, I raise up my divine command at the rising of the Great God (Osiris).’9

Also in the Coffin Texts we read that ‘Osiris appears whenever there is an outflow’ of water, i.e., the annual flood.10 ‘The rising of the Great God’ at the start of the Nile’s flood offers us the imagery of the rising of the astral Osiris (Orion). Thus, in this spiritual or soul form, says Rundle Clark, ‘Osiris is especially considered the spirit in the Nile flood … The rising of Orion in the southern sky after the time of its invisibility is the sign for the beginning of a new season of growth, the revival of nature. Osiris has been transformed into a “living soul” …’ i.e., a Ba or star soul, in this case Orion. The idea that the Ba was indeed a star soul can be found throughout the pharaonic epoch, in the so-called Papyrus Carlsberg I, for instance, which dates from the second century AD, well into the Christian era. The Carlsberg I papyrus, now in the University of Copenhagen, came originally from the Fayum, a fertile oasis south of Cairo much frequented in the second century AD by Christian Gnostics.

Similar texts are known as the Dramatic Texts, and come from the tomb or cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos (c. 1350BC), where they still are. Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker, experts in Egyptian astronomy, say that ‘in chapter VI, 43, the souls are referred to as “stars” …’11 The actual passage in the Dramatic Texts, Part II, VI, 43 which Neugebauer and Parker refer to, reads, ‘The souls go forth and they travel in the sky at night. The rising of the stars. They travel at night …’, and goes on, ‘when it (the soul) is seen by the living, it is indeed a star, the people do not see it by day … One sees that is how it (the soul) lives there. You see it shining forth in the sky …’

The Carlsberg I papyrus, which draws much of its material from cosmology on the ceilings and walls of Seti I and the Ramesside tombs (c. 1300–1150BC), is a detailed treatise of the rebirth of human beings as stars in the Duat. A few quotes from the text and also commentaries from Otto Neugebauer and Richard Parker, who have studied it for many years, summarise the essential points:

the most important information that comes from this chapter (Carlsberg, I, Ch. E) is the fact that the decans (groups of stars) indicate the hours no longer by their successive rising but by their culmination (at the meridian) or transit. The star of the ‘first’ hour is the decan which has completed its ten days as first hour star and is seen at the meridian at the beginning of the night, that is, sometime after sunset …12

The writers go on to explain that after this meridian passage, a star is seen to take ninety days (three months) to reach the western horizon at the same time of day (i.e., dusk, just after sunset). Then it ‘enters’ the Duat, that is, it becomes invisible for a period of seventy days. The seventy days, say Parker and Neugebauer, is modelled on the period of invisibility of Sirius. Then the star is reborn in the east; it ‘comes forth from the Duat’ and travels the sky from east to west. It takes eighty days to reach the meridian, this time at dawn, before sunrise: the twelve hours of this star. Another 120 days (twelve decan hours) sees the star at the meridian at dusk, just after sunset. This is its ‘first’ hour, and the cycle begins again. It appears that the star works (is an active soul) only when it can be seen to cross (transit) the meridian, eighty days after its rebirth, its helical rising, when it is at the meridian at dawn. A simple calculation thus shows that the decan or star works for 120 days, that is, twelve decan hours of ten days each.13

Also contained in these texts is the concept that rebirth of a soul star occurs at its heliacal rising; when it rises in the east at dawn after its seventy-day period of invisibility. The star is thus imagined as emerging from the female figure of the sky goddess as she is arched across the sky with her thighs in the east. The following passages are inscribed next to an image of the sky goddess arched in that position:

The female figure of this (figure) … that is to say her head is in the west and her hind part in the east … He causes the hind part to be the beginning, that is to say, the Place of Birth …14

the marshes of heaven of the gods (stars), is the place from which the birds (Ba-souls) come … they are from the north-west side … as far as the south-west side … of the [sky] … which opens to the Duat which is on the northern side [of the sky] …15

Clearly the dead person’s soul yet to be reborn enters the Duat in the north or circumpolar region but then starts its labour (work), presumably of being gestated inside the womb of the sky goddess, when the star is at dawn at the meridian. It takes 90 + 120 + 70 = 280 days to complete its astral gestation and for the soul to be reborn at its heliacal rising in the east at dawn. The average time for human gestation is, of course, 280 days.

The Texts go on to tell us that the special stars under consideration rise in the south-east part of the horizon, where Orion and Sirius rose (and still do):

… these are the risings of the gods. These … Orion and Sothis (Sirius), who are the first of the gods – that is to say they customarily spend seventy days in the Duat [and they rise] again … It is in the [south] east that they celebrate their first feast …16

Finally the Texts reveal that the life-death-rebirth cycle of a star is regarded as the same for humans:

… their burials (the stars) take place like those of men … that is to say, they are the likeness of the burial-days which are for men today … seventy days which they pass in the embalming-house … Its duration in the Duat indeed takes place. It is the taking place of its duration in the Duat … every one of the stars – that is to say 70 days … this is what is done (meant) by dying. This one which sets is the one which does this … the star among them which goes to the Duat …17

The Neugebauer-Parker commentary on these texts is that the analogy of human embalming and ‘the stay of a star in the Duat for seventy days’ is made explicit. They go on to say, surprisingly, that ‘no suggestion has yet been made why seventy days has been chosen for the ideal period’; then conclude, rightly, ‘it is the behaviour of Sirius – the prototype of the decanal stars – which suggests it.’18

It is apparent that the event of a human death and rebirth in an afterlife world or ‘cosmic Egypt’ was based on the annual cycle of the stars and, more specifically, on those of Sirius and Orion, the divine couple and protagonists in the drama of astral rebirth. This idea has its origins in Egypt’s early Pyramid Age, and was first expressed in the sacred astro-architectural language of the Fourth Dynasty, who built the Giza and Dashour giant pyramids. These pyramids have survived, together with the Pyramid Texts of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties which provide us with the fundamentals of a potent star religion of rebirth.

This religion is the purest manifestation of the human hope that religious rituals and liturgies will assist the initiate or believer to achieve rebirth as a star soul in the afterworld of Osiris. When the texts are analysed as a whole, we conclude that a gestation cycle of some 273 to 280 days (about nine months) took place when a star began its labour at the meridian at dawn, to reach, in the east at dawn, the apotheosis of rebirth.

The cardinal points were of the utmost importance to the rituals involved: the south (meridian) marking the start of the cycle, the west the start of symbolic death when the star became invisible, the east denoting rebirth when the star rose heliacally. The north seems to have been regarded as a fixed point where the energy for the process could be generated, like a cosmic umbilical cord linked to the whole event. The mysterious abode of Tuart was there – the hippopotamus goddess of fecundity and childbearing, represented by the constellation we now call Draconis. Interestingly, the pole region of the sky Tuart inhabited also had a ‘mooring post’ from which a rope or cord emerges. This mooring post is often mentioned in the Pyramid Texts, in relation to the astral rituals, and is depicted in many astronomical drawings of a later period.

So, is the material in the Pyramid Texts, and its later version, the Coffin Texts and Book of the Dead, expressing the same thing as the astro-architectural language we read in the Fourth Dynasty pyramids, and particularly that of Cheops? We believe that the answer is ‘yes’.

Let us go back to the myth of Osiris and Isis and take a closer look at it from an astral viewpont. Osiris was killed by his brother, Seth, and Isis gathered his scattered limbs and brought about his resurrection, but one vital part of his body was missing: the phallus. Isis had to use an artificial phallus to make herself pregnant and bring forth Horus. If we look at the Orion-Hyades star figure showing a male human shape, we can see how the region we call Orion’s Belt fits the place of the phallus. It has often been suggested, (recently by the author), that the shafts in the Cheops pyramid served a fertility or phallic role in the stellar rebirth rituals.19 It is therefore reasonable to assume that the three stars which form Orion’s Belt represent the phallus of Sahu-Orion (Osiris-Orion). This has its counterpart on the ground in the three Giza pyramids, one of the southern shafts of Cheops’s pyramid (the King’s Chamber) being directed to Orion’s Belt. The southern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber was directed to Isis-Sirius, and this is found textually in the Pyramid Texts, where Osiris-Orion is addressed: ‘Your sister Isis comes to you rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues in her, she being ready as Sothis (Sirius), and Har-Sopt (the stellar Horus) has come forth from you as Horus Who Is In Sothis …’ [PT 632–3].

We have reason to conjecture that we are being told of the shafts in the Cheops pyramid: that the phallus of Osiris-Orion is the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber pointing to Orion’s Belt, and is connected with Isis-Sothis (Sirius) through the southern shaft of the Queen’s Chamber. The phrase ‘Your sister Isis comes to you’ indicates that there should be a physical link between the two shafts, and Gantenbrink may have found this link when he sent his UPUAUT robot up these shafts. At the end of the southern shaft from the Queen’s Chamber (still with about nineteen metres to run before it could pierce the face of the pyramid) he found the little portcullis door. Directly above this point is the southern shaft of the King’s Chamber, the Orion shaft, and here there is a marking or niche, indicating that the ancient builders saw a link between the two southern shafts.

If this conclusion is correct, this would force us to deduce that the large area between the two southern shafts may contain something to do with the stellar ritual for the seeding of Isis to create a symbolical new Horus-king to replace the departed king. This would be in line with the religious beliefs of the epoch, as the Pyramid Texts show. British Egyptologist Henry Frankfort, ex-director of the Warburg Institute in London, brought to light what he saw as a double event put into motion after a king died: the first was the funerary rites involving the elaborate preparation of the dead king as a Sahu (mummy or spiritual body),20 which took the corpse to the brink of an astral rebirth; the other event, in parallel to the first, was the transfer of kingship to the new, living Horus-king.21 (In May 1993 Robert Bauval was invited by Dr Nicolas Mann, director of the Warburg Institute, to give a talk on the recent findings in the Cheops pyramid and the new star cult studies of the Pyramid Texts. It is now hoped that this multi-disciplinary institute will contribute insights into the duality of ancient religions and astrologies.)22

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