Hu is the anthropomorphic divine personification of hu, a complex concept which involves both authority and utterance, that is, both the authority to speak and the exercise of that authority. In some texts it is only possible by context to distinguish this sense of hu from the similarly written hu, meaning food, which is sometimes personified as well. In at least one text, the two senses of hu converge completely. In a text from the temple of Horus at Edfu detailing a ritual for offering meat to a living sacred hawk kept at the temple, but which A. M. Blackman speculates to have been adapted from a ritual originally performed by the king prior to a sacred meal, the dinner table, as well as the hawk or king, is identified with the God Atum, while Shu, who provisions the table, is identified with Hu: “May he [Shu] dedicate to thee [Atum] all that he hath enchanted, for he hath become Hu,” (Blackman, p. 59; 153, 10). Hu, God of food, and Hu, God of authoritative utterance, are here virtually fused, since the product of Shu’s “enchantment” or authoritative utterance is in fact food for the sacred table. It is possible that one has here two aspects of the same divine potency, that is, the power of taste, which is also the power of judgment, akin to the metaphorical sense given to the term ‘taste’ in English. Hu frequently appears together with Sia, perception or understanding, helping to guide the boat of Re. In this pairing it seems as if the Egyptians regarded Sia as superior, insofar as Sia is specified (e.g., in PT utterance 250) as being “at the right hand of Re,” perhaps indicating that to perceive and to understand must come prior to utterance or action.

The personification of hu permits Egyptian theologians to speculate upon the sources of authority or authority of utterance. In PT utterance 401, the king states that he has “seen the Great Serpent” and “received the Great Serpent,” as a result of which he is able to say that “Hu has bowed his head to me, and I cross his canal with my serpent behind me.” The ‘Great Serpent’ here is perhaps to be identified with Wadjet. In CT spell 759, however, the operator says “I know the dark paths by which Hu and Sia come in with the four dark snakes which are made bright for those who follow them and those who precede them,” hinting at the dark and obscure origins of hu and sia. In PT utterance 627, in a particularly complicated formulation, it is said that “authority [hu] is given to the king from [or ‘as’] Him whose face suffers greatly in the presence of Him who is in the Abyss.” Since Atum is typically ‘Him who is in the Abyss’ it seems as if ‘authority’ derives either from being able to bear the discomfort of meeting Atum face-to-face, or accrues to the king instead of one whose suffering in the encounter with Atum made him unsuitable as a bearer of ‘authority’. A mythical account of the origins of Hu and Sia is given in a commentary on BD spell 17. Here, an appeal is made to the “Ancestors”: “Give me your hands. It is I, who came into being through you.” The ancient commentary states that this refers in some fashion to the drops of blood which came from Re’s phallus “when he set about cutting himself,” which “became the Gods that are in the presence of Re. They are Hu and Sia.” More interesting, perhaps, than the myth itself (for, being such intimate faculties of Re’s as the powers of perception and of authoritative utterance, Sia and Hu might be expected to have their origin from within Re’s own body) is that it stands as a commentary on a rather straightforward statement about the dependence upon the ancestors: it is the connection with the ancestors, it would seem, which constitutes these powers of understanding and of authoritative speech for the individual.

A similar note is perhaps struck by the several references to Hu in BD spell 78, which is entitled “Spell for Assuming the Form of a Divine Falcon,” i.e. Horus, embodiment of sovereignty over the idealized spiritual ‘territory’ of Egypt. First Geb is appealed to for ‘authority’ (hu), which is followed by the wish that “the Gods of the netherworld be afraid of me … when they see that thy [Geb’s] catches of fowl and fish are for me,” alluding perhaps to lordship over other, subordinate souls, which are at times represented by fish and fowl caught in nets, but also playing upon the two senses of hu. Later in the same spell, the operator, having “taken for myself the Gray-haired ones” (compare the reference in spell 17 to the ‘Ancestors’), proceeds to “Them That Preside over Their Pits … at the house of Osiris,” to “inform them that he [Horus] has taken over Authority [hu] and that Atum’s symbols of Might have been provided for him.” Finally, at the end of the spell, Atum passes on to the operator “what Hu has told him,” consisting of a series of praises of Horus. Here Hu gives weight to Atum’s speech as a perfect expression of the truth and a confirmation of the sovereignty of Horus from “Atum the Mighty, sole one of the Gods who changes not.” The praise of Horus which Atum delivers in the voice, as it were, of Hu, comes as the culmination of the efforts of the operator.

CT spell 325 is for “becoming Hu”. A variant manuscript titles the spell “becoming Heka,” which indicates the tight bond between authoritative utterance and magically effective utterance or heka (cf. spell 1130: “Hu is in company with Heka, felling yonder Ill-disposed One for me”). Unfortunately, the contents of the spell are rather obscure, but it seems to associate Hu with the pacification of the fiery Eye of Re, a role typically accorded to Shu or Thoth. The close relationship between Thoth and Hu is to be expected; accordingly, Thoth is asked at CT spell 617 to “commend me to Hu.” That hu plays a role in supplementing sia is indicated by CT spell 469, in which it is said that “the weary (or inert) Sia” sends for “the two Hu-Gods” – possibly the two senses of hu mentioned above, since it is said that they shall permit one to “eat magic” – who accordingly “shall have power over Sia the weary, who is not equipped with what he needs.” It is perhaps this partial independence of hu from sia which is indicated by a statement like that in CT spell 1136 that “Hu who speaks in darkness belongs to me.” Also related to this may be the characterization of Hu in PT utterance 245 as having for companion the “Lone Star” – that is, a star visible when no others can be seen, hence either Venus (Hesperus) or Jupiter (Journal of Near Eastern Studies 25, 160f).

Something of the nature of hu can be discerned from BD spell 84, where the operator says “What Hu tells me, that have I said. I have not told lies yesterday and truth today.” It is not simply that hu is inconsistent with lying; rather, hu seems to be a consistent ground for what one says. This accords well with the image presented in Egyptian didactic literature of the sage as a person of few words, but those well-chosen.

Blackman, A. M. “The King of Egypt’s Grace Before Meat.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 31, 1945, pp. 57-73.

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One Response to “Hu”

  1. […] – — – , “Sia,” John Coleman Darnell, “The Apotropaic Goddess in the Eye,” Studien zur Altaegyptischen […]

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