Legends of the Gods
The Egyptian Texts, edited with Translations
by E. A. Wallis Budge
London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Trübner & Co. Ltd.
A LEGEND OF KHENSU NEFER-HETEP 1 AND THE PRINCESS OF BEKHTEN
THE text of this legend is cut in hieroglyphics upon a sandstone stele, with a rounded top, which was found in the temple of Khensu at Thebes, and is now preserved in the Bibliothèque Nationale at Paris; it was discovered by Champollion, and removed to Paris by Prisse d'Avennes in 1846. The text was first published by Prisse d'Avennes, 2 and it was first translated by Birch 3 in 1853.
The text was republished and translated into French by E. de Rougé in 1858, 4 and several other renderings have been given in German and in English since that date. 5 When the text was first published, and for some years afterwards, it was generally thought that the legend referred to events which were said to have taken place under a king who was identified as Rameses XIII., but this misconception was corrected by Erman, who showed 6 that the king was in reality Rameses II.
By a careful examination of the construction of the text he proved that the narrative on the stele was drawn up several hundreds of years after the events described in it took place, and that its author was but imperfectly acquainted with the form of the Egyptian language in use in the reign of Rameses II. In fact, the legend was written in the interests of the priests of the temple of Khensu, who wished to magnify their god and his power to cast out devils and to exorcise evil spirits; it was probably composed between B.C. 650 and B.C. 250. 7
The legend, after enumerating the great names of Rameses II., goes on to state that the king was in the "country of the two rivers," by which we are to understand some portion of Mesopotamia, the rivers being the Tigris and Euphrates, and that the local chiefs were bringing to him tribute consisting of gold, lapis-lazuli, turquoise, and logs of wood from the Land of the God. It is difficult to understand how gold and logs of wood from Southern Arabia and East Africa came to be produced as tribute by chiefs who lived so far to the north.
Among those who sent gifts was the Prince of Bekhten, and at the head of all his tribute he sent his eldest daughter, bearing his message of homage and duty. Now the maiden was beautiful, and the King of Egypt thought her so lovely that be took her to wife, and bestowed upon. her the name "Ra-neferu," which means something like the "beauties of Ra." He took her back with him to Egypt, where she was installed as Queen.
During the summer of the fifteenth year of his reign, whilst Rameses II. was celebrating a festival of Amen-Ra in the Temple of Luxor, one came to him and reported that an envoy had arrived from the Prince of Bekhten, bearing with him many gifts for the Royal Wife Ra-neferu. When the envoy had been brought into the presence, he addressed words of homage to the king, and, having presented the gifts from his lord, he said that he had come to beg His Majesty to send a "learned man," i.e., a magician, to Bekhten to attend Bent-enth-resh, His Majesty's sister-in-law, who was stricken with some disease.
Thereupon the king summoned the learned men of the House of Life, i.e., the members of the great College of Magic at Thebes, and the qenbetu officials, and when they had entered his presence, he commanded them to select a man of "wise heart and deft fingers" to go to Bekhten. The choice fell upon one Tehuti-em-heb, and His Majesty sent him to Bekhten with the envoy. When they arrived in Bekhten, Tehuti-em-heb found that the Princess Bent-enth-resh was possessed by an evil spirit which refused to be exorcised by him, and he was unable to cast out the devil.
The Prince of Bekhten, seeing that the healing of his daughter was beyond the power of the Egyptian, sent a second envoy to Rameses II., and besought him to send a god to drive out the devil. This envoy arrived in Egypt in the summer of the twenty-sixth year of the reign of Rameses II., and found the king celebrating a festival in Thebes. When he heard the petition of the envoy, he went to the Temple of Khensu Nefer-hetep "a second time," and presented himself before the god and besought his help on behalf of his sister-in-law.
Then the priests of Khensu Nefer-hetep carried the statue of this god to the place where was the statue of Khensu surnamed "Pa-ari-sekher," i.e., the "Worker of destinies," who was able to repel the attacks of evil spirits and to drive them out. When the statues of the two gods were facing each other, Rameses II. entreated Khensu Nefer-hetep to "turn his face towards," i.e., to look favourably upon Khensu. Pa-ari-sekher, and to let him go to Bekhten to drive the devil out of the Princess of Bekhten.
The text affords no explanation of the fact that Khensu Nefer-hetep was regarded as a greater god than Khensu Pa-ari-sekher, or why his permission had to be obtained before the latter could leave the country. It is probable that the demands made upon Khensu Nefer-hetep by the Egyptians who lived in Thebes and its neighbourhood were so numerous that it was impossible to let his statue go into outlying districts or foreign lands, and that a deputy-god was appointed to perform miracles outside Thebes.
This arrangement would benefit the people, and would, moreover, bring much money to the priests. The appointment of a deputy-god is not so strange as it may seem, and modern African peoples are familiar with the expedient. About one hundred years ago the priests of the god Bobowissi of Winnebah, in the Tshi region of West Africa, found their business so large that it was absolutely necessary for them to appoint a deputy.
The priests therefore selected Brahfo, i.e., "deputy," and gave out that Bobowissi had deputed all minor matters to him, and that his utterances were to be regarded as those of Bobowissi. Delegates were ordered to be sent to Winnebah in Ashanti, where they would be shown the "deputy" god by the priests, and afterwards he would be taken to Mankassim, where he would reside, and do for the people all that Bobowissi had done hitherto. 8
When Rameses II. had made his petition to Khensu Nefer-hetep, the statue of the god bowed its head twice, in token of assent. Here it is clear that we have an example of the use of statues with movable limbs, which were worked, when occasion required, by the priests. The king then made a second petition to the god to transfer his sa, or magical power, to Khensu Pa-ari-sekher so that when he had arrived in Bekhten he would be able to heal the Princess.
Again the statue of Khensu Nefer-hetep bowed its head twice, and the petition of the king was granted. The text goes on to say that the magical power of the greater god was transferred to the lesser god four times, or in a fourfold measure, but we are not told how this was effected. We know from many passages in the texts that every god was believed to possess this magical power, which is called the "sa of life," or the "sa of the god,".9 This sa could be transferred by a god or goddess to a human being, either by an embrace or through some offering which was eaten.
Thus Temu transferred the magical power of his life to Shu and Tefnut by embracing them, 10 and in the Ritual of the Divine Cult 11 the priest says, The two vessels of milk of Temu are the sa 12 of my limbs." The man who possessed this sa could transfer it to his friend by embracing him and then "making passes" with his hands along his back. The sa could be received by a man from a god and then transmitted by him to a statue by taking it in his arms, and this ceremony was actually performed by the king in the Ritual of the Divine Cult. 13
The primary source of this sa was Ra, who bestowed it without measure on the blessed dead, 14 and caused them to live for ever thereby. These, facts make it tolerably certain that the magical power of Khensu Nefer-hetep was transferred to Khensu Pa-ari-sekher in one of two ways: either the statue of the latter was brought near to that of the former and it received the sa by contact, or the high priest first received the sa from the greater god and then transmitted it to the lesser god by embraces and "passes" with his hands.
Be this as it may, Khensu Pa-ari-sekher received the magical power, and having been placed in his boat, he set out for Bekhten, accompanied by five smaller boats, and chariots and horses which marched on each side of him.
When after a journey of seventeen months Khensu Pa-ari-sekher arrived in Bekhten, he was cordially welcomed by the Prince, and, having gone to the place where the Princess who was possessed of a devil lived, he exercised his power to such purpose that she was healed immediately. Moreover, the devil which had been cast out admitted that Khensu Pa-ari-sekher was his master, and promised that he would depart to the place whence he came, provided that the Prince of
Bekhten would celebrate a festival in his honour before his departure. Meanwhile the Prince and his soldiers stood by listening to the conversation between the god and the devil, and they were very much afraid. Following the instructions of Khensu Pa-ari-sekher the Prince made a great feast in honour of the supernatural visitors, and then the devil departed to the "place which he loved," and there was general rejoicing in the land.
The Prince of Bekhten was so pleased with the Egyptian god that he determined not to allow him to return to Egypt. When the statue of Khensu Pa-ari-sekher had been in Bekhten for three years and nine months, the Prince in a vision saw the god, in the form of a golden hawk, come forth from his shrine, and fly up into the air and direct his course to Egypt. Realizing that the. statue of the god was useless without its indwelling spirit, the Prince of Bekhten permitted the priests of Khensu Pa-ari-sekher to depart with it to Egypt, and dismissed them with gifts of all kinds. In due course they arrived in Egypt and the priests took their statue to the temple of Khensu Nefer-hetep, and handed over to that god all the gifts which the Prince of Bekhten had given them, keeping back nothing for their own god.
After this Khensu Pa-ari-sekher returned to his temple in peace, in the thirty-third year of the reign of Rameses II., having been absent from it about eight years.
1 In the headlines of this section, p. 106 ff., for Ptah Nefer-hetep read Khensu Nefer-hetep.
2 Choix de Monuments Égyptiens, Paris, 1847, plate xxiv.
3 Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature, New Series, vol. iv., p. 217 ff.
4 Journal Asiatique (Étude sur une Stèle Égyptienne), August, 1856, August, 1857, and August-Sept., 1858, Paris, 8vo, with plate.
5 Brugsch, Geschichte Aegyptens, 1877, p. 627 ff.; Birch, Records of the Past, Old Series, vol. iv., p. 53 ff.; Budge, Egyptian Reading Book, text and transliteration, p. 40 ff.; translation, p. xxviii. ff.
6 Aeg. Zeit., 1883, pp. 54-60.
7 Maspero, Les Contes Populaires, 3rd edit., p. 166.
8 Thus the king must have invoked the help of Khensu on the occasion of the visit of the first envoy.
9 Ellis, Tshi-speaking Peoples, p. 55.
10 Text of Unas, line 562.
11 Pyramid Texts, Pepi I., l. 466.
12 Ed. Moret, p. 21.
13 Ibid., p. 99.
14 Pepi I., line 666.