Ekunyi's Embers

PBP Fridays 2013 – B is for Bawy

As I have mentioned previously on this blog, many members of the Kemetic Orthodox faith choose to undergo the Rite of Parent Divination. Since the church’s founding in the late 1980s, certain patterns have emerged in which Netjeru frequently appear together in this process. One such link exists between Heru-wer and Set: if someone is divined the Child of one of these gods, the other will generally appear as a secondary Parent or Beloved. Such was the case with me, Set was divined my Father and primary Parent, Heru-wer appeared later in the line-up.

I have struggled to get to know Heru-wer (Horus the Elder) as  I had absolutely no relationship with Him prior to the RPD. His appearance in the ritual was possibly the main factor in my waiting as long as I have to become Shemsu; I could hardly swear my loyalty to a god I knew nothing about, and indeed, greatly disliked for a time due to confusion in my initial, cursory research. Early efforts led me to accidentally mix what I would later learn to be two distinct tales: the struggle of Heru-wer and Set, brothers engaged in political strife as the rulers of the south and the north each vying for control of the whole, and the battle between Heru-sa-Aset and Set, seemingly a prelude to the construction of the Hamlet trope, where vengeance for a father’s untimely murder requires battle with one’s uncle.

Such confusion is common, argues Egyptologist Jan Assman, as these “two mythic circles” overlap. Their separation today remains largely a theoretical construct, for the two streams of tradition freely flowed in and out of each other in varying sources over the ages (Assman 2001, 135). And yet, despite this melding, Assman argues that the occasionally conflicting details matter less than the overarching themes which represent values crucial to Egyptians from all periods: “the overcoming of antagonism, the balancing of opposites, the reconciliation and uniting of contending parties, integration of portions, the achievement of an overarching whole, the consolidation of rule in a single hand” (Ibid., 139).

From p. 65 of “Symbol and the Symbolic” by R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, this and other images of the Bawy can be found on Joan Lansberry’s marvelous website.

These values stressing a “united duality” had an embodied form (Ibid., 134). One “body” to hold this combination of opposites as the deity Wilkinson calls Horus-Seth, noting that “despite their inimical characters, the reconciled Seth and Horus may be depicted as a combined deity with the heads of both gods” (Wilkinson 2003, 198). This dual-god was worshiped as Antywey (Antywy/Antewy), whose name means “the two clawed ones,” expressing the violence of combat between two opposed forces (Traunecker, 60). Antywey could also be depicted by a pair of falcons, other times with one human body bearing two heads, one falcon, one Set-animal (Lansberry 2012, 51).  Of the specific image at left, she writes, “Horus-Seth stands on a two-headed sphinx, one head Horus with the White Crown and one a human head wearing the white crown.” (Ibid., 51).

Te Velde argues that this god Antywey  “is not an example of ‘another composite deity’ … but Horus and Seth united and reconciled in one god” (Te Velde 1967, 68). Indeed, the god had his own cult in the city of Tjebu, capital of the 10th nome (roughly, province), for most of the Pharonic period, and would retain a following in the city even during the Ptolemic era as Antaeopolis (after Antaeus, adapted from Antywey) (El-Masry, 193). Yet this deity, for all that He exists as a unified entity, seems to contain two distinct ba. Te Velde notes that in Chapter 17 of the Book of the dead, “the uniting and the reconciling of Horus and Seth are spoken of in the same breath … ‘I am He with the two ba’s'” (Te Velde 1967, 70).

From this description we finally discover the reasoning behind the name used for this entity by most of the online Kemetic Community: Bawy, or literally “ba” with the dual ending, making it “two bau” or “pair of bau.” Defined roughly, one’s ba is the individual soul which contributes to the formation of one’s personality. Thus the meaning behind this particular name is crucial: the brothers Set and Heru-wer, the twins united, brought together in the cause of reconciliation and balance, remain distinct in personality and drive.

Ramesses III crowned by Horus and Seth, from Joan Lansberry

This power inherent to the combination of Set and Heru-were without losing sight of either is frequently referenced in discussions of the power of the pharaoh. On page 39 of his article on Seth [Set] as Trickster, Te Velde writes, “Every pharaoh, that is man in his quintessence, is a Horus reconciled with Seth, or a gentleman in whom the unformed spirit of disorder has been integrated” … but arguably not forgotten! Indeed the pharaonic ideal stems from the use of both without the loss of either.

“Sometimes we see that in the unity two different aspects may yet be distinguished: Hatshepsut rules this country as the son of Isis  (=Horus) and is strong as the son of Nut (=Seth). Ruling, the king is Horus, when he must use force he is Seth. Neither of the two aspects can be dispensed with. It is the co-operation of both gods in the king which guarantees the welfare of the world” (Te Velde 1967, 71).

The two remain distinct, and yet equally important as emblems of how a leader must act, what a leader must do, in order to successfully protect their people and nation.

Sema-tawy image, source unknown

It seems worthwhile to note a few other images reflecting combined aspects of Set and Heru-wer. The first is the Sema-tawy motif, in which Set and Heru-wer, individually bodied and yet mirror reflections of each other, symbolically tie together both halves of the divided land.  A similar concept has been depicted with both deities pictured as sphinxes, simply with their respective falcon and Set-animal heads.

Though a less direct connection, it is also worth noting another deity known to some as Anti (or Anty) and more recently as Nemty, who originally guided the henu boat of the falcon deity Sokar, yet in later texts appeared as ferryman of Ra and the other gods.His association with Heru meant that the god could indirectly be associated with Set. Thus it is no surprise that Nemty was depicted with the head of Set on a stela from the Middle Kingdom found near Mount Sinai (Wilkinson, 205; Te Velde 1967, 113).

Finally, though I acknowledge this as something of a stretch, I am also curious to know if various images of a winged Set, such as those collected here by Setken, also offer further insight into a possible cross over of aspects of the falcon god absorbed into His brother.

Despite the complex nature of the myriad forms and names in which Bawy can be found, His presence is still felt amongst the modern day Kemetic community. Songs and prayers have been written, praising and seeking out the power inherent to His potent combination of justice and strength. Others acknowledge the impact He has already had in their lives.

And for the newbies like me? We discover that there is much of our loved and respected Set in Heru-wer and vice-versa. The stranger seems a little less distant, connected now to His brother to embody a force that empowered pharaohs.

Dua Bawy: the opposing forces are reconciled! May the opposition in our own lives be turned to power, the conflicts within us resolved to become our greatest strengths!


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