(Also Banebdjed, Ba-neb-Djedet) Banebdjedet’s name means ‘the Ba who is Lord of Djedet’, a city in the Delta known to the Greeks as Mendes. Banebdjedet is depicted as either a long-horned ram or, less often, as a ram-headed man, and hence is frequently referred to as ‘the Ram of Mendes’. Greek texts, however, refer to the sacred animal of Mendes as a goat. Banebdjedet was incarnate in a living sacred ram (or possibly goat) kept at Djedet, comparable to the Apis bull. The term ba, which can be understood either as ‘soul’, hence as a force implicit in something else, or as ‘manifestation’, hence the phenomenon which shows forth the nature of something else, is also a sound-alike word in Egyptian for ‘ram’. Banebdjedet is thus a ba in both senses. He is frequently regarded as the ‘manifestation’ of four Gods – Re, Shu, Geb and Osiris – and can be depicted with four rams’ heads, two facing forward and two backward, to symbolize this quadripartite nature (also known in this form as Sheft-hat). These four Gods represent a succession of divine sovereignty as well as the fourfold conditions making life possible: the sun, the air, the earth and the Nile. Banebdjedet had as his divine consort the Goddess Hatmehyt.

Banebdjedet plays a small but significant role in the Conflict of Horus and Seth (Lichtheim vol. 2, pp. 214-23). When the matter of the Osirian succession is brought before Atum, Thoth and Shu speak in favor of granting the sovereignty to Horus, while Re speaks in favor of Seth, who promises moreover to make good his claim by superior force. Atum is not committed to either side and summons Banebdjedet, “the great living God,” to judge between Horus and Seth. Banebdjedet, who appears accompanied by Tatenen, counsels that a letter be dispatched to the Goddess Neith and the Gods abide by her decision. She advises that the sovereignty be granted to Horus, yet when the issue is argued again, Banebdjedet displays reluctance to award Horus the sovereignty. When Onuris and Thoth argue from the filial principle – “Shall one give the office to the uncle while the bodily son is there?” – Banebdjedet responds by citing Seth’s status as Horus’ elder, an argument running along the same line’s as Seth’s own appeal, which argues from his strength, that is, his capacity in the present, as demonstrated by his victory over Apophis every day in defense of the solar boat. It is a question posing the future against the present, legitimacy against ability, and the establishment of a new order against the honoring of a pre-existing one. Banebjedet is depicted as being poised at the crossroads of this decision with no strong leaning either way. He clearly does not belong among the partisans of the new order, but he has argued that the decision of Neith be respected. The fact that the issue is still debated after Neith’s intervention, however, indicates that her intervention is not sufficient alone to settle the matter. Is his medial position in the conflict due to the fact that as a God incarnate in a succession of mortal bodies, he is neither reflexively associated with the immortal Gods nor with Osirian mortality?

Banebdjedet occurs again in close association with Tatenen in a text from the mortuary temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu. In the text, Tatenen states that he transformed himself into Banebdjedet in order to father Ramses. A stela of Ramses IV from Abydos also juxtaposes Banebdjedet and Tatenen, both in connection with solemn oaths of some kind, affirming “I have not sworn by Banebdjedet in the house of the Gods; I have not pronounced the name of Tatenen; I have not taken away from his food-income.” The context is obscure, but it is to be noted that Isis swears by Tatenen at one point in the Conflict of Horus and Seth (Lichtheim vol. 2, p. 216).

Banebdjedet is associated with a taboo of some kind in a spell “for scaring away an enemy,” that is, for repulsing hostile magic which has been set against one (spell 10 in Borghouts). Here the operator refers to “the name of the relics of Banebdjedet – four faces on one neck – to which offerings are brought with a seal” as a “mystery” of the “Great House” (the temple at Mendes) which the operator denies having repeated; rather, “It is this magic that comes for NN born of NN that has said it, that has repeated it.” The spell launched against the operator is thus symbolically transformed into an act of profaning the sanctuary of Banebdjedet, and hence presumably turned back upon the one who would wield it.

In spell 125A of the Book of the Dead, the deceased says to Anubis “I have come hither to see the great Gods, that I may live on the offerings that are their nourishment, while I am beside Banebdjedet. He lets me ascend as a phoenix [benu] at my word, when I am in the river.” A further afterlife role for Banebdjedet is alluded to in spell 17 of the Book of the Dead, where the deceased (or a living operator) affirms “I am his Twin Souls [bau] lodging in his twin progeny.” A commentary appended to the spell in antiquity explains that it refers to an event which takes place at Mendes. It goes on to explain that the ‘Twin Souls’ are Osiris and Re, with the ‘Twin Progeny’ being two forms of Horus, or “the Soul of him who is in Shu and the Soul of him who is in Tefnut.” It is clear from this that the tradition of Banebdjedet being the ba of at least two but more certainly four deities is stronger than the identification of which deities are meant, although Re and Osiris seem to be constant. In this regard it should be noted that the form in which Re is depicted journeying through the night to rendezvous with Osiris (e.g. in the Amduat book) is that of a ram-headed ba.

Redford, Donald B. 2010. City of the Ram-Man: The Story of Ancient Mendes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

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One Response to “Banebdjedet”

  1. […] “Banebdjedet.” Henadology : Philosophy and Theology. Web. Date of access: May 5, 2013. […]

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