“Darkness” (masc.), a God belonging to the Hermopolitan Ogdoad.

Darkness in this sense, in the form kky or kkw, seems to have been an important concept in the Demotic text modern scholars have dubbed the “Book of Thoth”, a scribal initiation manual surviving only in fragments. There are numerous references in the fragments of this text to the ‘Chamber of Darkness’ (ꜥ.t kky), and indeed the text’s true title may in fact have been “The Ritual of the Regulation of Entering the Chamber of Darkness”. At Edfu, Seshat is called “Mistress of the Rope, Foremost One of the Chamber of Darkness”, and in the Book of Thoth she is likely the one referred to as “She-who-is-wise … who first established the Chamber [of Darkness], she being … a lamp of prophecy.”

Kky in ꜥ.t-kky is not the everyday darkness of night (grḥ), but the precosmic darkness personified in Kek and Keket. Kky-darkness is thus often associated with the Nun, the primeval oceanic chaos. In particular, kky-darkness suggests lack of differentiation; hence the term kkw-smꜣw, ‘utter’ or, literally, ‘united’ darkness, which alludes to the precosmic condition in which “there were not two things”. By means of the Chamber of Darkness, the initiated writer appropriates this night prior to any day: “My heart said to me: ‘Return to it, namely, the Chamber of Darkness, so as to learn its boundary’.” In this respect, the Chamber seems to pertain to the material dimension of text as embodying aspects of the precosmic state. The Chamber of Darkness also pertains to the underworld: “May I see the Chamber of Darkness, entering into the form of it, namely, the excellent limb of the underworld.” Through this aspect, the writer establishes a relationship with writers who went before and who are now ‘excellent spirits’ (ꜣḫw.w iqr), transfigured from their mortality to become pure sites of enunciation: “the excellent spirits think in my heart.” Finally, the Chamber of Darkness is the locus of prophecy (sr), and hence associated with utterances irreducible to human subjectivity, and which are conceived in the form of animals: “These dogs, these jackals, these baboons, these snakes, which prophesize according to their utterances […]”; “The jackal … speaks prophecies in the Chamber of Darkness […].”

Butler, Edward. 2013. “Opening the Way of Writing: Semiotic Metaphysics in the Book of Thoth,” pp. 215-247 in Practicing Gnosis: Ritual, Magic, Theurgy and Liturgy in Nag Hammadi, Manichaean and Other Ancient Literature. Essays in Honor of Birger A. Pearson, ed. April D. DeConick, Gregory Shaw, and John D. Turner. (Leiden: Brill).

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