“How weary is the cackling goose!”

November 15, 2013

The Dark-bellied Brent Goose – overwintering around the Solent from its breeding grounds in the Taimyr peninsula of northern Siberia – is taking on for me something of the same talismanic quality as the Swift and the Magpie.

Solitary Goose

So, I’m grateful to my friend, Neil Coulling, who has alerted me to this online presentation of a rock shelter in Egypt, which reveals striking parallels between the shipwreck/goose/regeneration theme of my last post and the same theme in an ancient Egyptian mystical context. As Neil has observed,

“I have been quite taken with the Egyptian mythological creator goose, Ngg wr, the “Great Honker”

Honking and producing the solar egg from its mouth.

Was Joyce aware of the correspondences between the Greater Arcana and the paths on the Tree of Life in Qabalah?
I would make a wild guess and put geese in the 32nd path, Tau, from Malkuth to Yesod.
This path is represented by GA XXI, the World or Universe.
A Hyperborean migration?
Snow geese are Chen Hyperborea. This could also be the legendary Middle Pillar, from Malkuth to Kether. (Flying over Daarth… Like Le Voltigeurs in the Qlipoth, but more graceful….)”

The online presentation is a summary derived from J.C. Darnell, Theban Desert Road Survey II: The Rock Shrine of Paḥu, Gebel Akhenaton, and Other Rock Inscriptions from the Western Hinterland of Qamûla, Yale Egyptological Publications 1, in press. I now quote at length from this presentation (in green ink), interspersing it with images from Tipner today.:

The rock shrine of Pahu is a remarkable collection of inscriptions — at least 34 identifiable groups — located along an approximately 14 meter wide portion of limestone beneath a natural rock overhang. Although a few are earlier and some later — including a sexually explicit Greek text — the majority of the inscriptions are of Eighteenth Dynasty date;of these, almost all are the work of a man named Paḥu, the relative simplicity of whose title — w‘b-priest of Amun of Ḥeriḥeramun — stands in contrast to the quality, variety, and inventiveness of his rock inscriptions. Paḥu’s inscriptions include such unexpected images as the figure of King Aḥmose and a speaking image of the goddess Taweret. Of all Paḥu’s inscriptions, however, the most remarkable is certainly Paḥu’s prayer from the midst of the stormy river.

boat goose

This inscription is an unusual expression of Paḥu’s piety and compositional originality. Paḥu carved his text over the more lightly incised depiction of a boat; as Paḥu’s text concerns an apparent storm and resulting shipwreck on the Nile, the combination of text and image appears to represent an interesting attempt by Paḥu to embed the visual and written information, rather than simply employing the text as an annotation or caption to a depiction. The vessel rides through the text as Paḥu’s rode into the storm that so frightened the priest from Ḥeriḥeramun. Paḥu appears legitimately to describe trouble in a storm, and does not employ the image of the “deep” as a means of describing trouble of a more psychological nature.


Paḥu refers to his place of trouble with the term mḏw(.t), a word appearing elsewhere in reference to troubled sailing on the Nile, and having Netherworldly connotations as well, occurring in the Sixth and Tenth Hours of the Amduat. In the Lament of Menna (O. OIM 12074 + O. IFAO 2188) and the Teaching of Ani, the mḏw.t-deep is a metaphor for the potentially deadly results of involvement with the “woman from outside.” These New Kingdom texts represent continuations of earlier metaphors for rescuing the troubled one from the flood, and the Lament of Menna certainly threatens the physically wandering and morally anchorless son with trouble that apparently results from a small boat encountering waves, with a resulting “sinking into the depths of the Netherworld.” The imbedding of prayer and boat image in Paḥu’s inscription, and the prayer’s specification of high waves, suggest that Paḥu’s trouble was indeed nautical, and the deep waters in which he found himself sinking were very real and deep waters, not the arms of an “outside” temptress, or some other metaphorically addressed problem.


By employing the verb ḫni, Paḥu foreshadows his reference to the smn-goose in the final portion of the text. The alighting is the return of Paḥu to earth and the return of his departing soul out of the depths back to his saved body.


The Cry and the Goose

According to the prayer, Paḥu’s cry to Amun became a cry of regeneration, presumably at the time when Amun brought him to land. The content of the simple and direct quotation, b3g3.kw as the Ayinš-cry of Paḥu, may purposefully evoke the graphically similar term bg3w for “cry.” The goose is particularly appropriate as a form of the savior for one in trouble in or near the Nile, and the very voice of the one calling out for help may be compared to the cry of the Amun goose as creator. Note particularly the text P. BM 10042 (P. Harris Magical) recto 7, 6-7, in which the one reciting calls out:
Come to me, and cause that my voice be heard,
as is heard the voice of the great cackler in the night.


The British Museum magical treatise reveals a desire by the reciter of the text to identify his or her outcry — even musical expression, as this could as accurately be rendered “cause that my song be heard, as is heard the song of the great cackler” — with the sound of creation, just as Paḥu appears to have viewed his own petition to Amun. In Book of the Dead chapter 56, the availability of breathable air in the netherworld is linked to guarding the egg of the ngg wr, and the goose form of Amun could well be charged with providing breath for the apparently drowning Paḥu. The goose of solar Amun, emerged from the cosmic egg, may have been envisaged as sailing out upon the bi3-firmament. Paḥu may also have had in mind Chapter 98 of the Book of the Dead, in which the voice of the deceased cackling “like a smn-goose” is associated with the bringing of a boat in the netherworld.

The call of the goose is probably an allusion to the cry of creation uttered by the “great cackler” in the eastern horizon, the cry of creation and recreation, after which the goose form of the creator, the smn of Amun, himself becomes bg3-weary. On the interior east wall of the Colonade Hall of Luxor Temple, in a depiction of the divine barks leaving Luxor Temple at the conclusion of the Opet Festival — the beginning of the “reentrance” of Amun to Karnak Temple — a priest turns toward the procession following behind, facing the front of Luxor Temple and the bark of Amun as it emerges on the shoulders of its priestly porters, and makes a pithy yet interesting pronouncement:

How weary is the cackling goose!


The brief statement is pregnant with religious implications for the sexual activity of Amun during the Opet Festival, and for the rejuvenating power of the hieros gamos that formed part of the significance of Opet. The creative cry of the deity evokes the lassitude that results from the creative process, and the cry itself, ngg and bgg, can pun on the Coffin Text term b3gg(.t), “flaccid (here post-ejaculatory) phallus.” As the Decree of Amunresonther for Neskhons relates, Amun is one “who exhausts himself as the Nile Inundation, in order to enliven what he has created.” Considering the phonetic puns possible between bg3/b3gi and bg/bgg/ngg, the cry of “I am shipwrecked” might literally become the cry of the goose.

Paḥu’s prayer and the aid of Amun contains neither refers to a do ut des relationship between the deity and a worshipper, nor alludes to the tribulation of Paḥu as a chastisement of the deity. Paḥu‘s prayer may belong to — or even slightly predate — a tradition of recording more extemporaneous hymnic productions that developed during the time of Amenhotep III. The images of rearing animals before plants (Paḥu Nos. 18, 20, and 33), the Taweret goddess (Paḥu No. 6), and the Hathors (Paḥu Nos. 20, 22, and 26) of Paḥu’s site, along with the image of a man before a large taper at Gebel Akhenaton (Gebel Akhenaton Lower Site No. 13) suggest that Paḥu may have carved his texts and images at the time of the New Year — the time of the epagomenal days, the flooding time of the topsy-turvy world, the weal and woe of year and cosmos hanging in the balance. Like the inscription of Pawah in TT139, Paḥu’s site preserves a petition to the distant deity, who can nevertheless approach as savior. By carving his prayer at his “New Years” shrine, Paḥu preserved the record of an appropriate and answered petition to the deity, thereby providing a suitable template for the prayers that he might offer as wAyinb-priest during the vigil before a festival.


Paḥu composed a brief literary text of religious import, in which the prayer itself is but a short cry, as brief as the creative cackle of Amun as the goose, to whom Paḥu in his prayer appealed, and to whom Paḥu likens his own cry and his subsequent alighting on land. His prayer as Paḥu bequeathed it to us is short but interesting, a New Kingdom harbinger of the de profundis (Psalm 130 [Septuagint 129]) and Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the “great fish” (Jonah 2:2-9). In terms of the layout of the text, the concepts finding expression therein, and the order thereof, a peculiarly close parallel is Psalm 40: 1-3 (here quoted in the King James version):

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.
2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.
3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God …

In the Psalter, God hears the cry of the afflicted and brings the wretched one out of a mucky depth — compare Paḥu’s “I called to Amun, when I was in trouble, <in> the depth of the river, when the waves were high” — and sets the feet of the afflicted on solid ground and orders the goings thereof — so Paḥu’s “and he caused that I travel the earth by my own volition” — with the result that God puts a song in the mouth of the thankful Psalmist — being Paḥu’s concluding “and he caused that I give voice like the goose”.



Relevant to the creative cackle of the goose, evoked above, is Neil’s observation that the qabalistic gematria of 111 in the Sepher Sephiroth includes AUM ‘the divine, all-encompassing consciousness taking the form of the first and original vibration manifesting as sound.’

Dort hinaus, deine Wege zu!
Doch rät dir Gurnemanz:
lass du hier künftig die Schwäne
in Ruh’
und suche dir, Gänser, die Gans!

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