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Ancient Egyptian bestiary: Shrews
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Shrews

shrew, Source: Lexikon der Goetter und Symbole der alten Aegypter
Shrew re-creating the sun.
Source: Lexikon der Götter und Symbole der alten Ägypter
 
Shrew, Ptolemaic period; Source: Cleveland Museum of Arts website
Shrew, bronze
Ptolemaic period (?)
Source: © Cleveland Museum of Art website
    The shrew, Egyptian arar, was worshipped at Letopolis as one representation of the nocturnal side of Horus, the other being the ichneumon. Its bronze statuettes were often covered with solar symbols such as the winged scarab, the falcon, the uraeus or a winged sun disk. The animal was always depicted as standing on its hind legs. As a divine animal it was often mummified.
    One of the epithets of Amen-Re was Shrew which Came forth from the Clay.[3]
 
    In a demotic papyrus a magician changes into a shrew living at Letopolis. As such he was able to cause blindness and death:
[The uses (?)] of the shrew-mouse (?) to which it is put (goes). You take a shrew-mouse (?), you drown it in some water; you make the man drink (12) of it; then he is blinded in his two eyes. Grind its body (?) with any piece of food, you make the man eat it, then he makes a (13). . . and he swells up and he dies. If you do it to bring a woman, you take a shrew-mouse (?), you place it on a Syrian (14) pot, you put it on the backbone (?) of a donkey, you put its tail in a Syrian pot or in a glass again; you let it loose (?) alive within (15) the door of a bath of the woman, you gild (?) it (sic) and embalm its tail, you add pounded myrrh to it, you put it in a gold ring (?), (16) you put it on your finger after reciting these charms to it, and walk with it to any place, and any woman whom you shall take hold of, she [giveth herself(?)] unto you. (17) You do it when the moon is full If you do it to make a woman mad after a man, you take its body, dried, you pound [it, you] take (18) a little of it with a little blood of your second finger, (that) of the heart (?), of your left hand; you mix it with it, you put it (19) in a cup of wine; you give it to the woman and she drinks it; then she has a passion for you. You put its gall into a (measure of) wine (20) and the man drinks it; then he dies at once; or (you) put it into any piece [of food]. You put its heart (?) into a seal-ring(?) (21) of gold; you put it on your hand, and go anywhere; then it brings you [favour, love, and] reverence. [1]
    Sakhmet priests must have had a pretty good knowledge of their natural surroundings if a suggestion for making a diagnosis in the Roman period Handbook of the Sakhmet priest  was to be useful:
... in it which makes noises like those from shrews in their hole. [2]

 


Footnotes:
[1] Griffith F.Ll., Thompson Herbert The Demotic Magical Papyrus of London and Leiden
[2] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Tempelbibliotheken => Bibliothek des Sobektempels von Tebtynis => pFlorenz PSI inv. I 73 + pCarlsberg 463 => Handbuch des Sachmetpriesters
[3] After a transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae website: Altägyptisches Wörterbuch, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften => Tempelbibliotheken => Bibliothek eines Tempels in Elephantine (?) => pBrooklyn 47.218.156 ("Le Papyrus Magique Illustré") => 2. Text zum Siebengesichtigen Bes
 

 
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- Shrews in ancient Egypt.
© 2002
Changes:
July 2012

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