Western Hinterland of Qamûla: I: The Rock Shrine of Paḥu
The rock shrine of Pahu is a remarkable collection of inscriptions — at least 34 identifiable groups — located along an approximately 14 meter wide portion of limestone beneath a natural rock overhang. Although a few are earlier and some later — including a sexually explicit Greek text — the majority of the inscriptions are of Eighteenth Dynasty date;of these, almost all are the work of a man named Paḥu, the relative simplicity of whose title — w‘b-priest of Amun of Ḥeriḥeramun — stands in contrast to the quality, variety, and inventivenessof his rock inscriptions. The beauty of the scenes and the originality of the inscriptions make Paḥu’s oeuvre amongst themost remarkable in an area of other remarkable rock inscriptions and depictions. The style and iconography of Paḥu’s images, together with the paleography, orthography, and grammar of his inscriptions, date the w‘b-priest’s rock art and inscriptions to sometime within the period encompassing the reigns of Amenhotep II, Thutmosis IV, and Amenhotep III.
Paḥu’s inscriptions include such unexpected images as the figure of King Aḥmose and a speaking image of the goddess Taweret. Of all Paḥu’s inscriptions, however, the most emarkable is certainly Paḥu’s prayer from the midst of the stormy river.
Paḥu No. 15: The Prayer of Paḥu in the Midst of the Flood
This inscription is an unusual expression of Paḥu’s piety and compositional originality.2 Paḥu carved his text over the more lightly incised depiction of a boat; as Paḥu’s text concerns an apparent storm and resulting shipwreck on the Nile, the combination of text and image appears to represent an interesting attempt by Paḥu to embed the visual and written information, rather than simply employing the text as an annotation or caption to a depiction. The vessel rides through the text as Paḥu’s rode into the storm that so frightened the priest from Ḥeriḥeramun. Paḥu appears legitimately to describe trouble in a storm, and does not employ the image of the “deep” as a means of describing trouble of a more psychological nature.3
Part 1: Storm on the River, Prayer and Salvation
a The cry to Amun with following circumstantial describing the state in which Paḥu found himself parallels other texts containing š-calls, perhaps the best known being that of Ramesses II to Amun in the Kadesh Poem (§§110-112), in which the initial suffix conjugation cry is followed by: 1) a circumstantial clause introduced by iw=i; then 2) a noun with following circumstantial verb form.4 Compare also Theban Graffito No. 1394,5 and stela MMA 18.104.22.168 The opening of Paḥu’s prayer particularly recalls a portion of the stela of Nebre, Berlin 20377.7 Being a virtual clause of circumstance, the particle iw in Paḥu’s text functions in an acceptably Middle Egyptian fashion (note also Demarée, in Teeter and Larson, eds., Gold of Praise, p. 79, n. i).
b The water signs as determinative to “trouble” specify the aquatic nature of the trouble, and results in four nouns in ll. 1-2, following one after the other, with water signs as determinatives — the reader is visually overwhelmed by the waves of the repeating determinative N(35), just as the actual waves of the stormy Nile threatened to ovewhelm Paḥu (compare the use of repetitive determinatives to stress foreignness of the words they determine, etc. — see Allon, Lingua Aegyptia 18 : 1-17).
c An expanded version of the “riverine trouble,” in the Eloquent Peasant (B1 90-91, Parkinson, Eloquent Peasant, p. 17).
d Noun + stative as a circumstantial description, parallel to the preceding iw=i. The term h(3)nw (Wb. II 481, 11-12) can refer to waves on the Nile as well as on the sea; even the waters of desert deluges may have such waves.8 The h3nw-waves of the “river spell” in P. Magical Harris (BM 10042) 7, 9 are certainly on the Nile.9
e Probably ḫni of Wb. III 287. Both here and in l. 6, In l. 6, Paḥu writes another verb ḫn, and there also appears to double the n, just as he doubles the n of rhny in rhnny nfr n ’Imn (Paḥu No. 27). One may take this apparent ḫnn as a peculiarity of Paḥu’s handwriting, and read ḫni, “to alight, to stop at a place” (Wb. III 287, 3-288, 3); compare also the orthography of ḫni, “alight,” as ḫn-ny-ny in the text of O. Deir el- Medina 1223, l. 3,10 and ḫn.t as ḫnn in ir(.t) ḫnn in the oracular text of Djehoutymose at Karnak.11 The reduplication of the consonant n where gemination is not expected is attested for a number of verbs in Late Egyptian, probably under the influence of the weakening and ultimate obsolescence of the sḏm.n=f (Sethe, Das aegyptische Verbum 1, pp. 131-132, §226).
f The preposition n does not appear to have been common with rd.wy in texts of pharaonic date — compare Wb. II 461, 16-462, 8 — but something of a parallel appears in the inscriptions of Metjen, apparently expressing “by means of one’s own volition,”12 the rendering adopted here for Paḥu’s text .Note also the Coptic ,“to go on foot.”13
Paḥu refers to his place of trouble with the term mḏw(.t), a word appearing elsewhere in reference to troubled sailing on the Nile, and having Netherworldly connotations as well, occurring in the Sixth and Tenth Hours of the Amduat.14 In the Lament of Menna (O. OIM 12074 + O. IFAO 2188) and the Teaching of Ani, the mḏw.t-deep is a metaphor for the potentially deadly results of involvement with the “woman from outside.”15 These New Kingdom texts represent continuations of earlier metaphors for rescuing the troubled one from the flood,16 and the Lament of Menna certainly threatens the physically wandering and morally anchorless son with trouble that apparently results from a small boat encountering waves, with a resulting “sinking into the depths of the Netherworld.”17 The imbedding of prayer and boat image in Paḥu’s inscription, and the prayer’s specification of high waves, suggest that Paḥu’s trouble was indeed nautical, and the deep waters in which he found himself sinking were very real and deep waters, not the arms of an “outside” temptress, or some other metaphorically addressed problem.
By employing the verb ḫni, Paḥu foreshadows his reference to the smn-goose in the final portion of the text. The alighting is the return of Paḥu to earth and the return of his departing soul out of the depths back to his saved body.18
Part 2: the Cry and the Goose:
a The proclitic pronoun with following stative — the full content of Paḥu’s waterlogged statement — adds another occurrence of the Late Egyptian First Present before the Amarna Period — see Kroeber, Neuägyptizismen, pp. 84-93.
b For Paḥu’s full orthography of the verb bg3/b3gi,19 compare the writing of b3gi (Wb. I 431, 2-11) in Meeks, Année lexicographique 3, p. 85, no. 79.0855; and O. Gardiner 304 verso l. 9;20 see also Lesko, Dictionary of Late Egyptian 1, 2nd. ed., p. 142.
c This appears to be an occurrence of the verb ḫni, “to make music, play the sistrum, dance,”21 showing Paḥu’s predilection for reduplicating final n. Note, however, that the apparent ḫnn could also be the word ḫn, “Rede, Angelegenheit” (Wb. III 289, 1-14), even “song,”22 the n reduplicated perhaps under the influence of the orthography of ḫnn at the beginning of l. 3, the object of an omitted ḏd, allowing a reading ḏi=f wn=i ḥr <ḏd> ḫnn(sic) mi p3 smn, “and he caused that I give voice like this goose.” For the mixing of determinatives between ḫni, “to alight,” and ḫn, “utterance,” compare the presence of both the alighting bird and the man-with-hand-to-mouth determinatives in orthographies of ḫni, “to alight,” in P. Harris 500 recto 4, ll. 4 and 10;23 note also Pleasures of Fishing and Fowling B 2, 5.24
According to the prayer, Paḥu’s cry to Amun became a cry of regeneration, presumably at the time when Amun brought him to land. The content of the simple and direct quotation, b3g3.kw as the
š-cry of Paḥu, may purposefully evoke the graphically similar term bg3w for “cry.”25 The goose is particularly appropriate as a form of the savior for one in trouble in or near the Nile, and the very voice of the one calling out for help may be compared to the cry of the Amun goose as creator.26 Note particularly the text P. BM 10042 (P. Harris Magical) recto 7, 6-7,27 in which the one reciting calls out:
Come to me, and cause that my voice be heard,
as is heard the voice of the great cackler in the night.
The British Museum magical treatise reveals a desire by the reciter of the text to identify his or her outcry — even musical expression, as this could as accurately be rendered “cause that my song be heard, as is heard the song of the great cackler” — with the sound of creation, just as Paḥu appears to have viewed his own petition to Amun. In Book of the Dead chapter 56, the availability of breathable air in the netherworld is linked to guarding the egg of the ngg wr, and the goose form of Amun could well be charged with providing breath for the apparently drowning Paḥu. The goose of solar Amun, emerged from the cosmic egg, may have been envisaged as sailing out upon the bi3-firmament.28 Paḥu may also have had in mind Chapter 98 of the Book of the Dead, in which the voice of the deceased cackling “like a smn-goose” is associated with the bringing of a boat in the netherworld.29
The call of the goose is probably an allusion to the cry of creation uttered by the “great cackler” in the eastern horizon, the cry of creation and recreation,30 after which the goose form of the creator, the smn of Amun,31 himself becomes bg3-weary. On the interior east wall of the Colonade Hall of Luxor Temple, in a depiction of the divine barks leaving Luxor Temple at the conclusion of the Opet Festival — the beginning of the “reentrance” of Amun to Karnak Temple — a priest turns toward the procession following behind, facing the front of Luxor Temple and the bark of Amun as it emerges on the shoulders of its priestly porters, and makes a pithy yet interesting pronouncement:32
How weary is the cackling goose!
The brief statement is pregnant with religious implications for the sexual activity of Amun during the Opet Festival, and for the rejuvenating power of the hieros gamos that formed part of the significance of Opet.33 The creative cry of the deity evokes the lassitude that results from the creative process,34 and the cry itself, ngg and bgg, can pun on the Coffin Text term b3gg(.t), “flacid (here post-ejaculatory) phallus.”35 As the Decree of Amunresonther for Neskhons relates, Amun is one “who exhausts himself as the Nile Inundation, in order to enliven what he has created.”36 Considering the phonetic puns possible between bg3/b3gi and bg/bgg/ngg,37 the cry of “I am shipwrecked” might literally become the cry of the goose.
Paḥu’s prayer and the aid of Amun contains neither refers to a do ut des relationship between the deity and a worshipper, nor alludes to the tribulation of Paḥu as a chastisement of the deity.38 Paḥu‘s prayer may belong to — or even slightly predate — a tradition of recording more extemporaneous hymnic productions that developed during the time of Amenhotep III.39 The images of rearing animals before plants (Paḥu Nos. 18, 20, and 33), the Taweret goddess (Paḥu No. 6), and the Hathors (Paḥu Nos. 20, 22, and 26) of Paḥu’s site, along with the image of a man before a large taper at Gebel Akhenaton (Gebel Akhenaton Lower Site No. 13) suggest that Paḥu may have carved his texts and images at the time of the New Year — the time of the epagomenal days, the flooding time of the topsy-turvy world, the weal and woe of year and cosmos hanging in the balance. Like the inscription of Pawah in TT139, Paḥu’s site preserves a petition to the distant deity, who can nevertheless approach as savior.40 By carving his prayer at his “New Years” shrine, Paḥu preserved the record of an appropriate and answered petition to the deity, thereby providing a suitable template for the prayers that he might offer as wb-priest during the vigil before a festival.
Paḥu’s piety neither follows upon the traumas of the Amarna Period proper, nor appears to revolt against the visual or verbal expressions of the “state” religion.41 His images appeal both to the divine and the royal worlds, and Paḥu appears, like others, to have put both divinity and the king in his heart.42 The location and relative seclusion of Paḥu’s rock inscription site, and the virtual absence of the works of other contemporaneous visitors, strongly argue against the view that personal expressions of piety are somehow responses to “state” control, and Paḥu does not seem to qualify as a member of the true “elite.”43 Although his prayer was a response to a specific and accidental event, his recording of the text at his rock shrine is in keeping with Paḥu’s activities as a wb-priest.44
The stela of Nebre — cited above for the similarity of the opening of Paḥu’s prayer to a portion of Nebre’s lengthier text — concludes with a statement that Nebre and his son Khay made the monument as the result of a vow to Amun. In gratitude to Amun for answering Nebre‘s prayer for his blighted friend Nakhtamun, Nebre vowed to set up a stela for Amun:
“I shall make this stela in your name,
and I shall set up for you this praise in writing on its face,
while you save for me the scribe Nakhtamun.”
— (so) I said to you45 —
and you heard me.
Now see, I have done what I said.
You are the lord of the one who calls to him, who rejoices in maat, lord of Thebes!
The side of the Qurn overlooking the path crossing the saddle of the hill over Deir el- Bahari, just beyond the “Village du Col,” was the location of numerous “dolmen” shrines, many of which contained small votive stelae.46 Unlike the area of shrines on the side of the Qurn, however, Paḥu’s site did no tattract a cottery of fellow worshippers; Paḥu’s site remains essentially a private oratory, adorned with Paḥu’s own icons and texts, not a place of group devotional activity. Paḥu’s piety was indeed personal.
Along with his record of a successful prayer to Amun for physical intercession during his riverine catastrophe, Paḥu also puts into the mouth of Taweret an expression of her call to him, a statement that the goddess has chosen Paḥu, or at least reciprocated in a rather ostentatious way his unrecorded choice of her.47 Nevertheless, Paḥu’s brush with death on the Nile does not appear to have conferred upon him any special character with regard to other worshippers — his near death by drowning appears to have bound him more closely to his deities, but he does not appear thereby to have become an extraordinary conduit for interaction between the human and divine worlds. He was not prematurely “deified.”48
Paḥu composed a brief literary text of religious import, in which the prayer itself is but a short cry, as brief as the creative cackle of Amun as the goose, to whom Paḥu in his prayer appealed, and to whom Paḥu likens his own cry and his subsequent alighting on land. His prayer as Paḥu bequeathed it to us is short but interesting, a New Kingdom harbinger of the de profundis (Psalm 130 [Septuagint 129]) and Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the “great fish” (Jonah 2:2-9). In terms of the layout of the text, the concepts finding expression therein, and the order thereof, a peculiarly close parallel is Psalm 40: 1-3 (here quoted in the King James version):
1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God ...
In the Psalter, God hears the cry of the afflicted and brings the wretched one out of a mucky depth — compare Paḥu’s “I called to Amun, when I was in trouble, <in> the depth of the river, when the waves were high” — and sets the feet of the afflicted on solid ground and orders the goings thereof — so Paḥu’s “and he caused that I travel the earth by my own volition” — with the result that God puts a song in the mouth of the thankful Psalmist — being Paḥu’s concluding “and he caused that I give voice like the goose”.