Famine Stela

A large fissure already existed at the time the inscription was created, divides the rock into two parts. Some areas are damaged, making some parts of the text unreadable.

It is written in hieroglyphs arranged in 42 columns. In the upper part three deities are represented; Khnum (the creator, represented with the head of a ram), Satis (a goddess, personification of the floods of the Nile) and Anuket (goddess of water and waterfalls). In front of them Pharaoh Djoser brings them offerings.

The text recounts the seven-year period of drought and famine that took place during the reign of Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Dynasty, the builder of the Step pyramid who reigned around 2665-2645 BC.

The drought began in the 18th year of his reign, caused because the Nile did not flood the farmlands and therefore there were no crops. The pharaoh then entrusted his vizier Imhotep to investigate where the god of the Nile was born, who was in charge of causing the flood annually. After consulting the archives in the temple of Thoth in Hermopolis, informs him that the rise of the Nile is the work of the god Khnum, who resides in a sacred spring on the island of Elephantine.

Imhotep travels to the temple of Khnum in Elephantine and while praying to the god he has a dream. In it, Khnum is introduced to him and describes his divine powers. He then promises the vizier to make the Nile flow again. Imhotep wakes up and writes down everything that Khnum has told him to tell pharaoh Djoser.

“I was grieving on my great throne, and those in the palace were grieving. My heart was in great pain, for the Nile had not arrived in time for seven years. The grain was scarce, the seeds were dry, everything that could be eaten was in short supply… Then I took pleasure in looking back and questioned the chief priest, Imhotep. Where does the Nile originate? I asked him, what god rests there, to support me? Imhotep replied, “There is a city in the middle of the water; the Nile surrounds it. Her name is Elephantine; Khnum is there”

Before the vizier’s account, the pharaoh orders priests, scribes and workers to restore Khnum´s temple and to once more make regular offerings to the god. Furthermore, by decree it grants him the territory between Aswan and Tachompso, and a part of all imports from Nubia.

However, the Famine Stela does not date from the reign of Djoser, or even that of any of his immediate successors. Researchers believe it was made during the time of the reign of the Ptolemies, the Greek rulers of Egypt after Alexander the Great, between 332 and 31 BC. That is, more than 2,300 years after the events that it narrates.

Specifically, it would belong to the reign of Ptolemy V (205-180 BC), and its creators would be the own priests of the temple of Khnum, who thus tried to justify their dominion over Elephantine Island and the surrounding regions. For this reason, for a time the inscription was considered a forgery of the priests. Today some Egyptologists believe that the facts it relates are true, others believe that they are fiction.

Sources: Historicaleve

The Younger Futhark

The runic alphabet that was used during the Viking Age is called Younger Futhark. These runes can be found on hundreds of runestones throughout Scandinavia. This alphabet does not consist of many runes, and that is because the Norse language evolved a lot during the Iron Age, which meant that the runic alphabet was reduced from 24 to 16 runes.

Each rune has its own name and sound. Some of the runes are used to spell the same letter, for instance, the Týr rune is used for the letters “t” and “d”, and kaun is used for “g” and “k”. 

The names on this list of the Younger Futhark runes have been taken from the website of The National Museum in Copenhagen. The names of the runes may vary slightly depending on the language and on which runologist has conducted the research.

Bet (ב)

The numerical value of bet is two, representing duality. Since it is the beginning of the word berachah (“blessing”) through which every food and drink is reconnected to its heavenly root, bet is also a link between the material world and the spiritual world of unity, reinforcing the truth that God is One.

Blessings open up our awareness of the bounty we receive and thereby open us up for receiving even more. As we stated earlier, the word ברכה – berachah (“blessing”) also means ברכה – bereichah (“large receptacle”). The more we bless God for the good we have received, the larger is the space we make that only He can fill.

Although we experience duality in this world—light and darkness, Yin and Yang, feminine and masculine, etc.—our spiritual work is to reach beyond the duality and reveal the source of Oneness hiding behind all duality. For example, our ultimate capacity for balancing Yin and Yang requires us to tap into pure essence, the deepest place in our souls that is beyond all time, space, and categories. As we shift our identity to pure essence, we may heal from all imbalances and fragmentation.

While Abraham is associated with the energy of alef, which unifies plurality, Isaac, in contrast, evokes the theme of bet, the perception of the deceptive plurality of creation and the need to overcome this deception. Although God’s creation is made of infinite variety and diversity, everything is endowed with His Spirit. Every event and situation is a manifestation of His will, even those which are most enigmatic.

Sources: Secrets of the Hebrew Alphabet

Alef (א)

The letter alef, besides being the first letter of the alphabet, also represents the number one, echad (אחד) in Hebrew. The numerical value of echad is thirteen, which is the numerical value of ahavah (אהבה), “love.” The letter alef represents both the oneness of God and His love for His creatures (the attribute of chesed, “goodness”).

Alef represents absolute unity within the plurality of Creation and is therefore the major symbol of Divinity. Many of the names of God begin with this letter: א-ל – El, אלוקים – Elokim, and אדנ-י – Ad-nai. In addition, there are many epithets used to describe God, such as אדיר – Adir (“glorious”) and אדון – Adon (“master”). The Zohar relates that before Creation, each letter of the alphabet came before God, requesting to be chosen to begin the process of creation. The letters presented themselves in reverse order: first was ת – tav, the last letter of the alphabet; next was ש – shin, the second-to-last letter of the alphabet; then ר – resh, and so on, up to ב – bet, second letter of the alphabet, which begins the word ברכה – berachah, “blessing”. Bet pleaded, “Let the world be created with me, so that all beings shall use me to bless God”. And God assented.

Then God asked the א – alef, the first letter of the alphabet, who had not yet uttered a word, why it was silent. The alef replied that in a world of plurality there was no place for her, since the numerical value of alef is one. God reassured alef, saying that even if the world would be created with Bet, alef would still be the queen of the alphabet. He said, “Have no fear, alef, you are one, and I am One. I want to create the world to have my spirit of oneness dwell there through the study of the Torah and the performance of mitzvot (the commandments). The first of the Ten Commandments will begin with alef, the first letter in the word אנכי – Anochi (“I”)—“I am the Lord your God.”

The perception of God’s oneness that alef represents is further suggested by the Hebrew word פלא (“wonder”), a permutation of the word alef: Discovering God as He is disguised in each detail of creation generates feelings of wonder and awe.

Sources: The Secrets of the Hebrew Alphabet

The Djed

The djed is an ancient Egyptian symbol for stability which features prominently in Egyptian art and architecture throughout the country’s history. `Stability’ should be understood to mean not only a firm footing but immutability and permanance. The symbol is a column with a broad base which narrows as it rises to a capital and is crossed by four parallel lines. The column and the lines are sometimes brightly painted and other times monochrome. The djed first appears in the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000-3150 BCE) and continues through the Ptolemaic Dynasty (323-30 BCE), the last dynasty to rule Egypt before it became a province of the Roman Empire.

The djed is often overlooked in Egyptian art, and especially in architecture, simply because it is so ubiquitous; the djed is featured on pillars, tomb walls, architraves (the main beam which rests on pillars), palace walls, sheets of painted papyrus, and especially sarcophagi. Once one is aware of the djed and its importance to ancient Egyptian culture it is impossible to miss. It is a potent symbol associated with the god Osiris and his return from the dead. The symbol has been interpreted to represent different objects such as the god Osiris’ backbone, the tamarisk tree which enclosed the god, four pillars rising one behind another, and a fertility pole raised at festivals. `Stability’, however, seems to have been its prime meaning and the one which the ancient Egyptians attached the greatest importance to.

The precise origin of the djed is unknown but it was associated with the god Ptah, an early creator god in the Predynastic Period whose attributes were later assumed by the deities Atum and Osiris. According to historian Clare Gibson, the djed was an early phonogram which could also act as a pictogram or ideogram. A phonogram is a symbol representing a sound and a pictogram a symbol for a specific word or phrase while an ideogram is a symbol of a thing itself without reference to words or sounds (such as numerals where one recognizes the symbol 10 as representing a certain quantity). The djed symbolized the spoken word-concept for stability, was the written word for stability, and stood for the concept itself.

Sources: World History Encyclopedia


In around 2000 bce, the Amorites (Westerners), a semi-nomadic people from Syria, swept across Mesopotamia, replacing local rulers with Amorite sheikh dynasties in many of the city-states. By the early 18th century bce, the three most powerful Amorite kings were pre-eminent Shamshi-Adad in the north, Rim-Sin in Larsa in the south, and Hammurabi in Babylon in the center. Over the course of his long reign, Hammurabi consolidated all of southern Mesopotamia into his kingdom and eventually extended his power as far up the Tigris as Nineveh, and as far up the Euphrates as Tuttul, on the junction with the river Balikh. He personally supervised the construction of many temples and other buildings.

The prelude to his code, a tribute to Hammurabi, and a long historical record of his conquests, boasts that his leadership was divinely sanctioned by the gods who passed control of humanity to Marduk (deity of Babylon), and so to its king. It also reveals he saw his role as the guarantor of a just and orderly society.

Rosetta Stone Discovered

Today in Egyptian history —> On this day in 1799, French Captain Pierre-François Bouchard found the Rosetta Stone in an Egyptian village. The stone was inscribed with hieroglyphics, demotic script and Greek script in 196 BC but was lost during the Medieval period. After its rediscovery, it prompted widespread excitement as scientists raced to be the first to decipher the ancient text. It was eventually translated by Jean-François Champollion, a French scholar, in 1822!

The inscription, by the way, is about the divine status of Ptolemy V.

The Egyptians want it returned for their new Grand Egyptian Museum (opening later this year), but the British Museum says no as it’s the most visited artifact in the museum.

The Rök Stone

The Rök Stone is one of Sweden’s most interesting rune stones. A man called Varin erected it in honour of his dead son’s memory in the 9th century. The stone stands beside Röks Church on the plains of the province of Östergötland. Its complicated web of stories continues to baffle scholars.

The Rök Stone stands two and a half metres above ground and around one metre beneath ground. The boulder of pale grey, fine-grained granite probably originates close to where it was found. The surface is strewn with runes; there are around 280 on the front and 450 on the back side. The stone engraver composed the placement of his text so brilliantly that a person standing upright can read the meandering runes. The stone is now protected by a pyramid-shaped roof in the outdoor museum that was established in 1991.

Varin’s contemporaries must have perceived the Rök Stone as a literary and artistic masterpiece. A rune stone carver with a distinct sense of form and ornament has created the decorative text. He also appears to have been a learned poet, familiar with mythic tales and conceptions of the period. It seems like he wanted to put the reader’s acumen and education on trial. Nowadays, scholars agree about how to read the Rök Stone, but not on how to interpret it. The stone consists of convoluted legends, obscure myths and various epics, as well as accounts of Varin’s own family history.

The monumental size and rich ornamentation of the Rök Stone suggests that the man called Varin belonged to an influential family. Furthermore, the appearance of Thor, a pagan God, in the latter part of the text, could be an effort to give a divine legitimacy to Varin and his family. In that sense, the stone served as a memorial of a lost son, as well as a status symbol for the family.

Source: Swedish National Museum

Viking Runes Introduction

By the beginning of the Viking Age, the Scandinavian rune-masters had developed an alphabet, or “futhark” (from the value of the first six characters), of sixteen characters that was quite distinct from the rest of the Germanic peoples. This alphabet was known as the “younger futhark”.

However, even within Scandinavia, there was no standard form for the characters and there are variations from inscription to inscription, but basically there were two main forms of futhark: the Common or Danish futhark (although it occurs outside of Denmark), and the Swedo-Norwegian futhark (although this also occurs outside of Sweden and Norway.

One can see that there are shortcomings with these alphabets. For example, there are characters for b, k and t, but there are none for p, g and d (this is because the futhark does not distinguish between these voiced and voiceless pairs. Therefore the rune-master had to use b for p, k for g and t for d.

There were other peculiarities: although there were two characters for the two different types of a, there were no symbols for e and o. This meant that the name “Svein” appears as in runes “suin” and the name “Gormr” appears as “kurmR”.

It becomes even more complicated, as the spelling practice allowed n to be omitted when it occurred before a consonant. Therefore the name Thormundr appears as thurmutR.

This of course means that many runic inscriptions can be very difficult to read and there can be a great deal of dispute about their true meaning.

Despite the difficulties in reading runic inscriptions, they can provide a good deal of useful information.

Source: Swedish National Museum Heritage Board’s website, but that page no longer exists.

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses Of The Great Ennead 

Egyptian Gods & Goddesses Of The Great Ennead 

The Ennead or Great Ennead was a group of nine deities in Egyptian mythology worshiped at Heliopolis: the sun god Atum; his children Shu and Tefnut; their children Geb and Nut; and their children Osiris, Isis, Set, and Nephthys. 

According to the creation story of the Heliopolitan priests, the world originally consisted of the primordial waters of precreation personified as Nun. From it arose a mound on the First Occasion. Upon the mound sat the self-begotten god Atum, who was equated with the sun god Ra. Atum evolved from Nun through self-creation. Atum either spat or masturbated, producing air personified as Shu and moisture personified as Tefnut. The siblings Shu and Tefnut mated to produce the earth personified as Geb and the nighttime sky personified as Nut.

Geb and Nut were the parents of Osiris and Isis and of Set and Nephthys, who became respective couples in turn. Osiris and Isis represent fertility and order, while Set and Nephthys represent chaos to balance out Osiris and Isis. Horus, the son of Osiris and Isis, is often included in this creation tradition.

 Atum —> Atum was the oldest of the creations gods worshipped by the Egyptians and they thought he existed before anything else. He created Nun, the celestial waters, and everything else through his thoughts. Thoth was Atum’s intelligence and put his creative thoughts into words to bring them to life. In the Book of the Dead, Atum was the setting sun and his images show him as a human wearing the double crown of Egypt.

 Shu —> was the husband of Tefnut and the father of Nut and Geb. He and his wife were the first gods created by Atum. Shu was the god of the air and sunlight or, more precisely, dry air and his wife represented moisture. He was normally depicted as a man wearing a headdress in the form of a plume, which is also the hieroglyph for his name. Shu’s function was to hold up the body of the goddess Nun and separate the sky from the earth. He was not a solar deity but his role in providing sunlight connected him to Ra. Indeed, he was one of the few gods who escaped persecution under the heretic king Akhenaten.

 Tefnut —> Tefnut was the wife of Shu and mother of Nut and Geb. She and her husband were the first gods created by Atum. She was the goddess of moisture or damp, corrosive air, and was depicted either as a lioness or as a woman with a lioness’s head.

 Geb —> was the father of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys, and was a god without a cult. As an Earth god he was associated with fertility and it was believed that earthquakes were the laughter of Geb. He is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts as imprisoning the buried dead within his body.

 Nut —> was the mother of Osiris, Isis, Seth, and Nephthys, Nut is usually shown in human form; her elongated body symbolizing the sky. Each limb represents a cardinal point as her body stretches over the earth. Nut swallowed the setting sun (Ra) each evening and gave birth to him each morning. She is often depicted on the ceilings of tombs, on the inside lid of coffins, and on the ceilings of temples.

 Osiris —> Osiris was originally a vegetation god linked with the growth of crops. He was the mythological first king of Egypt and one of the most important of the gods. It was thought that he brought civilization to the race of mankind. He was murdered by his brother Seth, brought back to life by his wife Isis, and went on to become the ruler of the underworld and judge of the dead.

 Isis —> A very important figure in the ancient world, Isis was the wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. She was associated with funeral rites and said to have made the first mummy from the dismembered parts of Osiris. As the enchantress who resurrected Osiris and gave birth to Horus, she was also the giver of life, a healer and protector of kings.

 Set —> Also known as Seth, Setekh, Suty and Sutekh. Set was the son of Geb and Nut, and the evil brother of Osiris. He was the god of darkness, chaos, and confusion, and is represented as a man with an unknown animal head, often described as a Typhonian by the Greeks who associated him with the god Typhon. He is sometimes depicted as a hippopotamus, a pig, or a donkey. Seth murdered his brother and usurped the throne of Egypt and most of the other gods despised him.

 Nephthys —> Daughter of Geb and Nut, sister of Isis, wife of Seth and mother of Anubis, Nephthys is depicted as a woman with the hieroglyphs for a palace and ‘Neb’ (a basket) on her head. She is thus known as “Lady of the Mansions” or “Palace.” Nephthys was disgusted by Seth’s murder of Osiris and helped her sister, Isis, against her husband, Seth. Together with Isis she was a protector of the dead, and they are often shown together on coffin cases, with winged arms. She seems to have had no temple or cult center of her own.