Sah is the divinity immanent in the constellation of Orion. In PT utterance 274, Sah is called “father of the Gods,” most likely because Orion precedes Sirius (Egyptian Sothis), the heliacal rising of which marked the beginning of the Egyptian year. Orion/Sah thus presides over the cycle of festivals through the course of the year through which the Gods manifest themselves. Orion is generally paired with Sirius in Egyptian thought. Thus in PT utterance 412, the deceased king is assured, “You shall reach [sah] the sky as Sah, your soul shall be as effective [seped] as Sothis [Sopdet].” Orion and Sirius—Sah and Sothis—thus come to be associated quite closely with Osiris and Isis respectively, but not to the point of identity. Soped is the child of Sah and Sothis, and BD spell 172 refers to Sah as the son of Re and Nut.
In PT utterance 442, it is said that “Osiris has come as Sah, lord of wine in the Wag festival,” since the Wag festival in honor of Osiris takes place during the first month of the year, and hence appropriately incorporates Sah/Orion. In this utterance the deceased king is promised to “regularly ascend with Sah from the eastern region of the sky … <and> regularly descend with Sah into the western region of the sky,” and that Sothis shall guide the king and Sah alike “on the goodly roads which are in the sky in the Field of Reeds,” the Field of Reeds being a transitional space the sun passes through just prior to the dawn. The reference to Sah as “Lord of wine in the Wag festival” echoes the affirmation by the deceased king in PT utterance 504 that “the sky is pregnant of wine, Nut has given birth to her daughter the dawnlight, and I raise myself,” which is thought to refer to the heliacal rising of Sirius, i.e. the rising of Sirius just before dawn, whose redness is here compared to wine. In PT utterance 466, Sah and Osiris are again paralleled, although Sah is in the sky and Osiris in the netherworld (which can be understood, however, as an invisible or ethereal sky): “O King, you are this great star, the companion of Sah, who traverses the sky with Sah, who navigates the netherworld with Osiris … The sky has borne you with Sah, the year has put a fillet on you with Osiris.” The companion star to Orion in this utterance has been identified with either Procyon or Aldebaran. In utterance 477, Sah is a ‘name’ of Osiris, characterized thereby as “long of leg and lengthy of stride,” due to a wordplay between Sah and a word sah meaning to kick as well as to reach or arrive at, as in PT utterance 412 (cf. CT spell 227: “I am Sah who treads [sah] his Two Lands”). Between Osiris and Sah, then, there is a close association, but involving only a narrow range of Osiris’ attributes. Sah principally signifies a desirable locale or abode in the sky, a favorite son of the heavens, and a helper in the ascent to the stars. Sah connects most clearly with Osiris in standing for the renewal of the year and thus the inauguration of a new round of the cosmic cycle, an especially important aspect of the general Osirian theme of renewal as such. In the Lamentations of Isis and Nephthys, Isis says to Osiris, “Your sacred image, Orion in heaven, rises and sets every day … The noble image issued from you nourishes Gods and men, reptiles and herds live by it,” (Lichtheim vol. 3, 118f).
The Pyramid Texts parallel the birth of Orion in the netherworld to the second birth of the deceased in the sky as a transfigured spirit or akh: “The sky conceives you with Orion, the netherworld bears you with Orion,” (PT utterance 442). The special relationship between the deceased and Sah/Orion is developed further in the subsequent afterlife literature. Spell 469 in the Coffin Texts involves an encounter between the operator and Sah: “I find Sah standing in my path with his staff of rank in his hand; I accept it from him and I will be a God by means of it,” the operator affirms, and by virtue of possessing this staff gains access to the “Mansion of Sah,” from a throne in the shrine of which s/he is able to summon Sah at will. A scepter or staff of Sah is also mentioned in BD spells 180 and Pleyte 168. Sah engages in a dialogue with the deceased (or the operator of the spell more generally) which is less than clear in its details but which demonstrates that a certain tradition envisioned a partnership between the magical operator and Sah, Sah acting as an intermediary between the operator and the other denizens of the netherworld. CT spell 470, a greatly condensed version of the same, affirms that Sah regards the operator as his son and successor: Sah says, “Give me my son, for it is he who rises in peace; you shall be ennobled before your throne, for you are my son, the lord of my house.” Another in this apparent genre of spells is CT spell 689, where Orion says that the deceased is “my son, older than I,” a typical sort of meaningful paradox in Egyptian religious literature. Once again Sah acts on behalf of the deceased, bringing certain flesh offerings to him/her—”‘I have indeed come’—so says Sah. ‘I bring to you the two shares of the cutting which you have asked for from me and those in charge of them,'”—and mediating between the deceased and other Gods or spirits: “‘Let me know what those two have done about what you asked for’—so says Sah.” In CT spell 1017, similarly, a series of speeches by Sah show him taking the principal role in the investiture of the deceased with the dignities and potencies s/he is to exercise in the netherworld.
Mention is made in BD spell 64 of a doctrine pertaining to the “attendants of Sah,” each of whom represents a twelfth part of the night, two of whom or a sixth of the night representing “the hour of overthrowing the rebel and returning therefrom triumphant … It is these that are at the opening of the netherworld; it is these that are assigned to Shu.” Here the role of the attendants of Sah, particularly two crucial ones, seems to be to secure the entrance to the netherworld, which is not conceived spatially here so much as temporally. These chosen attendants, representing a crucial moment in the journey through the night, are thus assigned to Shu because they form part of the supports of the heavens.
Allen, T. G. 1974. The Book of the Dead or Going Forth by Day. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. [BD]
Faulkner, R. O. 1969. The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [PT]
Faulkner, R. O. 1973-8. The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts. 3 vols. Warminster: Aris & Phillips Ltd. [CT]
Lichtheim, Miriam. 1975-80. Ancient Egyptian Literature. 3 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press.