Panagiotis Kousoulis, University of the Aegean
Rebellious identities and demonic diversity:
Name vs. function of the msw-bdSw and the Apopian associates
A central issue in the study of the ancient Egyptian demonic discourse is the variety of forms and names in which the unseen intervenes and is recognized. These manifestations range from positive to negative and vice versa. This is especially true for collective groups of enemies which are categorised under the generic term msw-bdS(t) or msw-bST. In the mythological discourse, msw-bdSt are regarded as a comparative body of liminal hostile entities, which usually refer to Apep and his off spring or associates, or to any group of rebels. Thus, it can be translated as “children of rebellion”, “children of impotence”, “children of the feeble”, or “children of the rebellious one”. The term may also be viewed as denoting a single serpentine being, as in the spell 17 from the Book of the Dead, in the scene 69 from the Book of Gates, or in Late Period material. The scope of this presentation is to present and exemplify the formative axioms and Apophian attributes of this collective group of hostile entities. At the core of this research lies the very complicated issue of the function vs. representation vs. name/function name in the ontological and performative conception of the demonic in ancient Egyptian thought. Does identity of the various apopian names identify the archenemy of the sun god par excellence, when the functions are different? Does identity of the multiple apopian functions identify the same malevolent entity, when the names are different? How could the polarity and conceptual development of a “demonic” or “anti-god” entity be framed and defined in the Egyptian belief system and discourse?