“Opening the Way of Writing: Semiotic Metaphysics in the Book of Thoth”

September 24, 2013

Recently I was greatly honored to participate in a Festschrift volume for an eminent scholar, Birger A. Pearson. The book is Practicing Gnosis: Ritual, Magic, Theurgy and Liturgy in Nag Hammadi, Manichaean and Other Ancient Literature. Essays in Honor of Birger A. Pearson, ed. by April D. DeConick, Gregory Shaw, and John D. Turner (Leiden: Brill, 2013). It’s a beautiful volume, with a wealth of outstanding essays. I was fortunate enough to be able to publish here a major interpretive essay on the recently published Demotic text known as the Book of Thoth. This essay, titled “Opening the Way of Writing: Semiotic Metaphysics in the Book of Thoth, is now available to download on the Theology page. This essay will be of interest to anyone concerned with Egyptian theology or with writing as a sacred practice. I hope you enjoy it. My thanks again to the editors for all their hard work, and especially to Gregory Shaw, a scholar and a gentleman, for providing me this opportunity.

5 Responses to ““Opening the Way of Writing: Semiotic Metaphysics in the Book of Thoth””

  1. helmsinepu said

    Are there any potential puns on barking or dogs, related to Seshat, Scribes, etc?

    • henadology said

      That’s an excellent question, because the first thing that one ought always to do when looking at any Kemetic theological text is to make note of the puns. One of the interesting characteristics of Demotic Egyptian is that the simplification of the orthography of most words relative to the earlier phases of the language means that the opportunities for punning actually increase in Demotic in a certain respect, though the loss of iconic diversity relative to Hieroglyphic or Hieratic Egyptian results in the loss of other opportunities.

      That being said, I have not noted any significant puns around dogs and barking, on the one hand, and scribal activity, on the other, though these are clearly symbolically associated in the text, which would indicate that the association arises on a different level. If you like, however, I can assemble a brief list of the relevant Demotic terms from the text, so that you may pursue your own inquiries.

      • helmsinepu said

        Yes. If nothing else, I can pass it along to someone else who’s good with demotic. It seems especially interesting because the idea of barking dogs seems completely at odds with scribal activity.
        Of course, that might be a way to show the ‘mysteries’ are utterly different from orderly record-keeping, But is signalling it that way too modern a concept?

      • henadology said

        The basic terminology is (using Manuel de Codage):
        iw, iwiw, Dsm/Tsm, whl, dog;
        sAb, wnS, jackal (here there is a possible pun on sbA, to be learned);
        bfbf, wHwH, barking.

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