Ancient Egyptian Names

Have you ever considered your name? What does it mean as a whole? What does it represent? In ancient Egypt, names were vital to a person’s life and afterlife. One of the five elements of man. It defined with a single expression their personality, their essence, and in some cases, their power.

Because of this, names of ancient Egypt were chosen carefully. The word(s) themselves often represented an individual’s personality, their devotion to a particular god or location, or reflected the times in which they lived; usually as a simple noun or statement. Some examples include Neferet (beautiful woman), User (strong), and Hatshepsut (foremost of noble ladies). The pharaohs, on the other hand, where given/took on more complex names. Ramesses II (aka Ramesses the Great) was given the name Ra-messes Mery-Amun or “born of Re, beloved of Amun” at birth, and the throne name he took on was User-Maat-Re Setep-en-Re or “the justice/truth of Re is powerful, Chosen by Re.”

But each person carried a second name as well. A secret name that was given at birth by the goddess, Renenutet, a cobra-formed goddess. This name was never disclosed, and for good reason. To know one’s secret name was to have power over the person or thing.

Take the myth of Isis and the Secret Name of Ra for example. Isis crafted a magical serpent out of dust and Ra’s spittle to gain knowledge of his secret name. Her true purpose depends on which myth you read. Personally, I prefer to acknowledge the myth where it was to save Osiris in the afterlife, but others claim it was to save the world from Ra’s wrath. To do this, she placed the serpent in the sun god’s path, which later that day bit him. Though a powerful healer, because the serpent was made from Ra’s spittle, he was unable to cure himself of the poison. Therefore, he called upon Isis, a great healer herself, to withdraw the poison for him. However, this would come at a price. In order to heal Ra, Isis needed to know his secret name. At first, Ra refused, but after the pain became unbearable, he finally entrusted her with the name, granting her the power over the sun god.

This was an important aspect in writing the Descendants of Isis series. Not only was finding Ra’s secret name the core of the novels, much of the first book Seth attempts to draw power from Natti’s name in order to control her. Much like he controlled the majority of Setemple High. Fortunately for Natti, she was blessed with the ability to see through his spells and resist.

Which leads me to the giveaway portion of the post. That’s right, a giveaway! All this talk about secret names, I created a little game. To participate in the giveaway, you must first find your secret name (below) and post it in the comments. *Mine is Akher-Akh (The Fallen Transfigured Spirit)*

what is your secret name.pptx

Once you have posted your secret name in the comments, you can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway here. The prize: an Anubis Amulet I brought back from my adventure through the Mummy Returns in Universal (Orlando, Florida). The giveaway is open INT and will close May 15th at 12:00AM.

Sources:

  • Fassone, A. and Ferraris, E. (2008) Dictionaries of Civilization: Egypt. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
  • Hill, J. (2010). Ancient Egypt Online. http://www.ancientegyptonline.co.uk
  • Oakes, L., and Gahlin, L. (2003). Ancient Egypt: An illustrated reference to the myths, religions, pyramids and temples of the land of the pharaohs. New York, New York: Barnes & Noble, Inc.
  • Strudwick, H. (2013). The Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt. New York, New York: Metro Books.

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