PD Dr. Alexandra von Lieven
Fellow October 2010 to July 2011
Dr., Privatdozentin for Egyptology, Free University Berlin, Germany
Born 1974 in Germany
Studied Egyptology and Comparative Religious Studies as well as Ancient Near Eastern Studies and Archaeology, Classical Archaeology and Indology in Tübingen
Myth and Morals – Divine Norm Transgression in Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egyptian mythology contains a great number of beings who transgress cultural norms or whose behaviour is at least potentially problematic. This is true not only for figures known as “evil” like Seth, the murderer of Osiris, his son Maga, and Apopis, the eternal rebel against the Sun God, but also for others such as Geb, the god of the earth, or the kingly gods Osiris and Horus, usually seen as positive deities. However, in the respective texts only peculiar agents are openly criticized for their behaviour. Even fewer are explicitly demonized as enemies in religious practice. Moreover, the same behaviour, e.g. the rape of one’s own mother, can be seen in the case of one deity as an extremely grave crime, while in the case of another it is merely a trivial offence.
Therefore one has to seek the reasons for this inequality. Furthermore, the question arises as to what this means for Ancient Egyptian society and its way of thought, as well as for the functions of myths in general in a complex culture.
The intention of this study is to compile for the first time a complete picture of divine norm transgression in Ancient Egyptian myths. In order to answer these questions, an inventory of all deities concerned is to be drawn up and the relevant sources analyzed. In a second step I intend to pinpoint characteristic mythemes with a view to understanding them more precisely in their structure and meaning.
In the case of the rape mytheme, which is attested several times, it can be shown quite clearly that the judgement is highly dependent on hierarchies and gender roles. These, in turn, are linked to certain claims. Thus, it makes a great difference whether the victim of the rape is the daughter or mother of the perpetrator. It is also of considerable significance whether she has a living husband whose rights are being transgressed. Obviously, these findings cannot be transferred 1:1 to Egyptian society, but they can be important indicators for a possible social consensus on certain issues.
For the cultural-historic analysis, similar phenomena in other ancient mythologies will be adduced for comparison. This will allow differentiation of that which is specifically Egyptian from possible universals.
von Lieven, A. 2007. Grundriß des Laufes der Sterne. Das sogenannte Nutbuch. Kopen¬hagen: Museum Tusculanum Press.
von Lieven, A. 2007. Thot selbdritt. Mögliche ägyptische Ursprünge der arabisch-lateinischen Tradition dreier Hermesse. Welt des Orients 37: 69-77.
von Lieven, A. 2006. Seth ist im Recht, Osiris ist im Unrecht! Sethkultorte und ihre Version des Osiris-Mythos. Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 133: 141-150.
von Lieven, A. 2004. Das Göttliche in der Natur erkennen. Tiere, Pflanzen und Phänomene der unbelebten Natur als Manifestatio¬nen des Göttlichen (mit einer Edition der Baumliste P. Berlin 29027). Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 131: 156-172, Taf. XX-XXI.
von Lieven, A. 2003. „Wein, Weib und Gesang — Rituale für die Gefährliche Göttin“ in C. Metzner-Nebelsick (Hg.): Rituale in der Vorgeschichte, An¬tike und Gegenwart. Neue Forschungen und Perspektiven von Archäologie, Ägyptologie, Altori¬en¬talistik, Ethnologie und vergleichender Religionsgeschichte. Interdisziplinäre Tagung vom 1.-2. Februar 2002 in Berlin. Leidorf: Rahden (Westf.): pp. 47-55.