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Isis and the Name of Ra

A Ramesside incantation to remove poison from a patient

From the Middle Kingdom on, narrative episodes involving gods and goddesses were used among the strategies of healing, as incantations to secure or restore good health. One such 'myth' found on several Ramesside sources is the tale of Isis and the Name of Ra. The surviving sources come from Deir el-Medina:

In this tale, Isis forms a clay snake with spittle dribbled by the ageing sun-god, the creator Ra. When the snake bites Ra, only Isis can save him, but she does this only when Ra reveals his secret name to her. He does this on condition that she reveal it only to her son Horus.

 

Paragraph 1

Transliteration

rw nw Sna mtwt m sp tpy
xpr rmT rxw m qmAw.s
wsr nTr imy xpr.sn im.f
Dd-mdw in srqt
r n nTr ntry xpr Ds.f
ir pt tA mw TAw n anx
nTrw rmT awt mnmnt
Ddft Apdw rmw
nsyt rmT nTrww m xt wa Hnty r rnpt
aA rnw nn rx pf nn rx pf
ist ist m st sArt
XAk ib.s r HHw m rmT
stp.s r HHw m nTrw
ip.s r HHw m Axw
nn xm.s m pt tA mi ra
ir Xry tA nTrt
kA.s m ib.s
r rx rn n nTr Spsy
isk aq.n ra ra nb
m HAt ist
smn.ti Hr nswty Axty

 

Paragraph 1

Translation

Formulae for repelling poison on the first occurrence,
when men became knowledgeable of its nature,
when the god was powerful in it through whom they came to be.
Words spoken by Serqet.
Formula of the divine god who came into being of himself,
maker of heaven and earth, of water, of the breath of life
of gods and humans, flocks and herds,
serpents, birds, and fish.
The kingship of humans and gods was a single thing for an extent of years.
Of numerous names, this name and that name unknown.
Now Isis is a wise woman,
more rebellious in her heart than a million men,
more choice than millions of gods,
more to reckon than millions of spirits.
She was ignorant of nothing in heaven and earth like Ra,
maker of what is under the earth. The goddess
she decided in her heart
to know the name of the noble god.
Now Ra went in every day
in front of the crew,
established on the double throne of the double horizon.

 

Paragraph 2

Transliteration

iAw nTry nw.n.f r.f
sty.n.f nniw.f r tA
pgs sw sxr Hr sAtw
sk.n s ist m drt.s
Hna tA wn Hr Xr.s
qd.n.s st m Ddft Spst
ir.n.s m qi Hty
nn nmnmi.s anx.ti r xft-Hr.s
xA.s smA wat
app nTr aA Hr.s
r Abb ib.f m-xt tAwy.fy

 

Paragraph 2

Translation

The divine old man bowed down his mouth,
and dripped his spittle to earth.
His spit had been dropped on the ground.
Isis scooped it up in her hand,
with the earth that was touching it,
and formed it into a noble snake
and made it with a tail shape,
not moving but alive in front of her.
She left it at the junction of a road,
crossed by the great god
going at his heart's desire for his two lands.

 

Paragraph 3

Transliteration

nTr Spsy xa.f r HA
nTrw nw aH anx wDA snb m xt.f
swtwt.f mi ra nb
xwn.s m Ddft Spsy
xt anx pr.ti im.f Ds.f
dn.n.s imy aSw
nTr aA wd.f r.f
xrw Hm.f anx wDA snb pH.n.f r pt
psdt.f Hr m pw sp sn
nTrw.f Hr ptri sp sn
nn gm.n.f r.f r wSb Hr.f
ir spty.fy Hr ftft
awt.f nb ist Hr sdA
mtwt iT.n.s m im.f sp sn
mi iT Hap imy-xt.f

 

Paragraph 3

Translation

The noble god arose outside,
the gods of the palace, life! prosperity! health!, following him,
and he wandered as every day.
It bit as a noble snake,
living fire had come from him himself,
and raged through him in the forest.
The great god opened his mouth,
the cry of His Presence life! prosperity! health!, reaching heaven.
His ennead said 'what is it? what is it?'
His gods said, 'what! what!'
He could not find his mouth to answer about it,
his lips shaking,
all his limbs trembling
the poison had taken hold of him completely
like the Nile Flood sweeping all before it.

 

Paragraph 4

Transliteration

nTr aA smn.n.f ib.f
xws.f r imyw-xt.f
mi.n n.i xprw m Haw.i
nTrw prw im.i
di.i rx.tn xpri.s
dm.n.tw xt mrt
rx st ib.i nn mAA sw irty.i
nn ir.s drt.i
nn rx.i m ir.n.i nbt
nn dp.n.i mn mitt.s
nn mr r.s

 

Paragraph 4

Translation

The great god summoned up his courage
and called to those in his following:
'Come to me, you who exist from my body,
gods who came out of me,
let me tell you its form.
Pain has struck,
My heart knows it, but my eyes cannot see it,
nor my hands make it,
nor do I recognise it from all I have made.
I have not tasted illness like it
Nothing could hurt more than this.'

 

Paragraph 5

Transliteration

ink smsw sA smsw
mw nTry xpr m nTr
ink wr sA wr
mAT.n it rn
ink aSA rnw aSA xprw
iw xpri.s wn m nTr nb
nis.tw itm Hr Hknw
iw Dd n.i it.i mwt.i rn.i
imn.i st m Xt.i r msw.i
n mrwt tm rdit xpr iT HkAw HkAyt r.i
pr.kwi r HA r mAA ir.n.i
swtwt m tAwy qmA.n.i
m Ddm xt nn rx.i
nn xt is pw
nn mw is pw
ib.i Xr tAw Haw isdd
awt nbt Xr msw Hsyw

 

Paragraph 5

Translation

'I am the eldest son of the eldest,
divine seed who came into being out of a god,
I am the great one, son of the great one.
The father devised the name.
I have many names, many forms,
he whose form is in every god,
who is called Atum-Horus-Hekenu.
My father and my mother told me my name
and I hid it from my children, in my body
to prevent it happening that a male or female magician strike against me.
I went outside to see what I have made,
and wander in the two lands which I created,
when something I do not recognise struck,
it is not fire,
it is not water.
My heart is ablaze, body trembling,
every limb under the effects of attack.'

 

Paragraph 6

Transliteration

imi in.tw n.i msw nTrw
Axy mdwt rxy r.sn
sArt.sn pH.sn r pt
iw r.f msw nTr aA
nb im Xry iAb.f
iw.n ist Xr Ax.s
st-r.s m TAw n anx
Ts.s Hr dr mnt
mdwt.s sanx gAw-Htyt
Dd.s m pw sp sn it nTr
ptri Ddft dn pw im.k
wa msw.k fA tp.f r.k
kA sxr st m HkAw mnx
di.i xtxt.f r mAA stwt.k

 

Paragraph 6

Translation

'Have the children of the gods brought to me
effective in words, expert in their speaking,
whose wisdom reaches the sky.'
The children of the great god came then,
each of them under his confusion (i.e. unable to help).
Isis came with her powers,
her speech as the breath of life,
her phrases able to repel pain,
her words that bring to life anyone with choked throat.
She said 'What, what, divine father,
what, is this a snake that has bitten you,
one of your children that raised his head against you?
Then they can be felled with effective words of power,
I can cause it to retreat from seeing your rays.'

 

Paragraph 7

Transliteration

nTr Dsr wp.n.f r.f
ink pw Sm Hr wAt
swtwt.i m tAwy xAswt
Abb.n ib.i r mAA qmA.n.i
xwn n.i m Ddft nn mAA st
nn xt is pw
nn mw is pw
qbb.kwi r mw
Smm.kwi r xt
Haw.i nbt Xr wnft
tw.i isdd irt.i nn smn
nn gmH.i
pt Hw Hr-Hr.i m tr n Smw

 

Paragraph 7

Translation

The sacred god opened his mouth:
'It was when I was walking on the road,
wandering over the two lands and the deserts,
because my heart was longing to see what I created,
and I was bitten by a snake, unseen.
It is not fire,
it is not water,
though I feel colder than water
and hotter than fire.
All my limbs are in sweat,
I am shaking, my eye cannot hold steady,
I cannot see.
Rain is pouring down on me in the season of summer.'

 

Paragraph 8

Transliteration

Dd.in ist n ra
i.Dd n.i rn.k it.i nTr
anx s dbH.tw Hr rn.f
ink ir pt tA Ts Dww
qmA wnnt Hr.f
ink ir mw xpr mH-wrt
ir kA n idt
xpr nmnmi.sn
ir pt sStA Axty
di bAw nw nTrw m-Xnw.s
ink wn irty.fy xpr HDDw
axn irty.fy xpr kkw
Hw Hap xft wD.n.f
nn rx.n nTrw rn.f
ink ir wnwt xpr hrw
ink wp rnpt qmA trw
ink ir xt anx
r sxpr kAt pr
ink xpri m dwAw ra m aHaw itm imy Stmw
nn xsf mtwt m Smt.s
nn nDm nTr aA

 

Paragraph 8

Transliteration

Then said Isis to Ra:
'Tell me your name, my divine father.
A man lives when called by his name.'
'I am the maker of heaven and earth, the binder of mountains,
creator of what exists upon it.
I am the maker of water, for the Great Ocean to take form,
the maker of the bull for the cow,
for their sexual movement to take place,
the maker of the secret heaven of the horizon,
the one who placed the souls of the gods within it.
I am he who opens his eyes and there is light,
who shuts his eyes and there is darkness,
he at whose command the Nile Flood strikes,
whose name the gods cannot know.
I am the maker of hours, for day to exist,
I am the cleaver of the year, who creates the seasons.
I am the maker of the fire of life,
to enable the work of the house to take place.
I am Khepri in the morning, Ra at noon, Atum who is in the dusk.'
The poison was not dislodged from its course,
the great god was not soothed.

 

Paragraph 9

Transliteration

Dd.in ist n ra
nn rn.k ipw i.Dd.n.k n.i
i.Dd.k st n.i
pry tA mtwt s dm.tw rn.f
mtwt Ddm.s m Ddm
sxm.n.s r nbiw r xt
Dd.in Hm n ra
di n.i anxwy.t sAt.i ist
pr m rn m Xt.i r Xt.t
imn.n sw nTry m nTrw
wsx st m wiA n HHw
ir xpr.f mi sp prt n.t ib
Dd.s n sA Hr
snH.n.t sw m anx nTr
rdit nTr irty.fy
nTr aA wTs.n.f Hr rn.f
n ist wrt HkAw
Spt wHaw pr m ra
irt-Hr pr m nTr
nbiw n r
ink ir.t ink hAb.t
mi Hr tA mtwt
sxm.i mk wTs.n nTr aA rn.f
ra anx.f mtwt mwt.ti
mn ms n mnt anx mtwt mwt.ti
m Dd n ist wr Hnwt nTrw ra rn.f Ds.f

 

Paragraph 9

Transliteration

Then said Isis to Ra:
'Your name is not among those you have told me:
tell it to me.
The poison leaves a man when his name is pronounced.'
The poison bit in with its bite,
more powerful than the burn of fire.
Then the Presence of Ra said:
'Give my your ears, my daughter Isis,
for the issue with the name from my innards to your innards,
for the most divine among the gods hid it
to be broad ranging in the sacred boat of millions.
If it happens as the time of the desire going out to you,
tell it to the son, Horus,
when you have bound him by an oath of god,
the granting of the god his two eyes.'
The great god raised up in his name
to Isis great in words of power.
'Fail, scorpion, go out from Ra,
eye of Horus, go out from the god,
Burning of the mouth,
I am the one who made you, I am the one who sent you,
Fall to ground, poison,
I have power, see the great god has raised up in his name.
Ra lives, the poison has died.
So-and-so born of so-and-so is alive, the poison has died.'
From when Ra said his own name to Isis the great mistress of the gods.

 

Concluding instructions for recitation

Dd-mdw Hr twt n itm Hr Hknw
rpyt ist twt n Hr
sS Hr drt n Xry ds
nsb in s
irw m mitt Hr Ssp n paqt
diw n Xry ds r xxy.f
smw pw smw wHa
nD Hr Hnqt irp r-pw
swri in Xry ds nt DAnry
Ss mAa HH n sp

 

Concluding instructions for recitation

Words spoken over an image of Atum Horus Hekenu,
an image of Isis, an image of Horus,
written on the hand of the bitten patient,
to be licked off by the man,
and drawn likewise on a strip of finest linen,
placed at the neck of the bitten patient.
The herbal remedy is the scorpion-herb,
ground into beer or wine,
to be drunk by the patient bitten by a scorpion.
An item a million time effective.

 

References


 

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