This is one of a series of blogs written as an assignment by the 2015-16 Year 3 and MA students taking a course on “Supernatural Beings and Demons of Ancient Egypt” offered by Kasia Szpakowska at Swansea University.

 

Have you seen this demon?

Description:

This demon has a distinguishable iconography in which it can be seen as a hybridised being — an anthropomorphic, seated body with the head of a turtle. Within its hands it holds two daggers (be careful, this could be a dangerous being!) and is often seen protecting a gate within the netherworld. It could be classed as a guardian-demon.

Turtle-headed demon within the third gate of the netherworld

Turtle-headed demon within the third gate of the netherworld. Lepsius Todtenbuch, Pl. LX BoD 144

The turtle can be identified as the Trionyx triunguis, a large growing and dangerous animal even in ancient Egypt. The female was able to grow large enough to be able to eat small Nilotic crocodiles, one of the most dangerous and feared animals to the ancient Egyptians! From the Middle Kingdom, the turtle is mentioned in funerary texts, for example CT368, which was used to protect the deceased from eating excrement in the afterlife.

 

“Get back Faeces! But Faeces is not my name. My name is Re, my name is aiHy Re on my two thrones. If you tell me to eat this, then Re will eat turtle.”

 

Eating turtle for Re is equal to eating faeces for humans, a rather negative connotation.

The turtle also has association with the chaotic god Apophis, specifically in the ‘Book of Overthrowing Apophis.’ Apophis was symbolic of evil and chaos, quite the opposite to the nature of the guardian-demon. As can be seen in the p. Bremner-Rhind, the turtle is used as the determinative in the name of Apophis — “Apophis-enemy-turtle.”

Name of Apophis with the determinative of the turtle.

Name of Apophis with the determinative of the turtle. p. Bremner-Rhind.

It is evident that this missing demon is harnessing the negative and chaotic aspects of the turtle, which is used in its iconography, in order to protect the deceased in the afterlife. If you happen to cross it in the netherworld, at least you now know its name!


May respond to:

wnm-HwA.wt nt pH.wj=f — “the one who eats the excrement of his rear.” The entity has been called this at least twice. Two Greco-Roman papyri attest this epithet: p. MMA 35.9.21 and p. Turin 1791, whilst the Lexikon der ägyptischen Götter und Götterbezeichnungen identifies this epithet with a guardian of the third gate in the netherworld. The name, however, can be traced back to the coffin texts, more specifically CT1102.


Last seen:

There have been very few sightings of this demon, but those, which have been detailed, include Book of the Dead 144, found on two Theban papyri of the Ptolemaic period: p. Leiden T 16 and p. Turin 1791.

p. Leiden T 16, BoD 144

p. Leiden T 16, BoD 144

 

p. Turin 1791, BoD 144

p. Turin 1791, BoD 144

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wooden statues, which resemble the description and previous sightings of the demon, can be found in the British Museum: EA50704, EA61416, both of the New Kingdom.

BM EA50704: Turtle-headed demon statue.

BM EA50704: Turtle-headed demon statue.

BM EA61416: Another turtle-headed demon statue.

BM EA61416: Another turtle-headed demon statue.

The final sightings can be found on sarcophagi, primarily of the Third Intermediate Period, coming from the 21st dynasty and 22nd dynasty, one of which (Cairo J. E. 87297) even belonging to the pharaoh Psousennes I:

BM EA30721

BMEA30721

BMEA30721

BM EA6666BMEA6666BMEA6666

Cairo J. E. 87297

Cairo J.E. 87297. Montet, Tanis II, pl. LXXXVI.

Cairo J.E. 87297. Montet, Tanis II, pl. LXXXVI.

Cairo J.E.87297

but also, the demon can be seen in a unique female form, dated to the Ptolemaic Period.

CGC29315

CGC29315

 

If you have any information regarding this demon, please contact

Jed Rual


 

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