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Qebehsenuef, Duamutef, Imsety and Hapi

The Sons of Horus - Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef and Qebehsenuef

by Caroline Seawright

Updated: November 29, 2012

 

The four mummiform Sons of Horus were believed to be the sons of Horus (either Horus the Elder, Horus of Khem (Letopolis), or Horus Son of Isis), deities who protected the canopic jars that held internal organs of the deceased. From the First Intermediate Period until the end of the 18th Dynasty, the stoppers of the canopic jars were shaped like the face of the deceased. After this time, the stoppers started to be depicted as the four Sons of Horus. The Four Sons of Horus with feathers of Ma'at

One of the earliest references to the sons of Horus occurs in the Pyramid Texts:

Utterance 688
An 'ascension' text

These four gods, Friends of the King, (namely) Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef, the children of Horus of Khem; they tie the rope-ladder for this King, they make firm the wooden ladder for this King, they cause the King to mount up to Khepera when he comes into being in the eastern side of the sky.

-- R. O. Faulkner (2004), The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, pp. 296-297

The four deities - Imsety, human headed protector of the liver, Hapy, baboon headed protector of the lungs, Duamutef, jackal- or wolf-headed protector of the stomach and Qebehsenuef, falcon headed protector of the intestines - were thought to have come out of a water lily that rose from the waters of Nun. Their genealogy was more confusing. Their father was often considered to be Horus the Elder, Horus of Khem (Letopolis), or Horus Son of Isis, while Isis was their mother. However, there were other beliefs concerning their parentage: The Four Sons of Horus on a water lily

...the four Children of Horus would be descended from the sperm of ... Set.

After Horus collected in his hands the sperm of the god Set ... his mother Isis who, horrified, cut off his hands and threw them into the marsh. The semen impregnated the primordial water lily which then sprung out of water and opened up, giving birth to the sun, or to the four Children of Horus.

The rapport between the Children of Horus and the hand cut from Horus is given by the formula 113 of the Book of the Dead: "Then Ra said: 'I give Nekhem (Hierakonpolis) to Horus to be the site of his hands'. [...] Then Horus said: 'Give to me therefore also Duamutef and Qebehsenuef, so that I may look after them, because they are a contentious group! They will be installed over there, under the dependence of the god of Nekhem."

-- Benderitter, T. 2007, The Four Children (or Sons) of Horus

In the story of the sons of Horus being born in a water lily, the four mummiform gods were rescued by the crocodile god Sobek, by the orders of Ra, and Anubis gave them funerary duties. They also attend the judgement of the deceased in the Halls of Ma'ati where they stand before Osiris on a half-opened blue water lily.

The Sons of Horus as canopic jars Originally it was believed that the Canopic jars were found only in Canopus (known as Pikuat to the ancient Egyptians), and were attributed to a Greek hero, Canopus (Kanopos), who was thought to have been buried there. Jean-François Champollion's experiment on one of the jars - he found that one held an internal organ; probably a heart, liver or spleen - proved that the jars were linked to the funerary cult of ancient Egypt, and not to worship of a god-hero, personified as these jars. Champollion was the first to conclude that the four heads on the Canopic jars were four symbolic spirits. He believed the stoppers to be the heads of a woman, a baboon, a hawk and a jackal. He was very close to the truth, despite not being able to read the hieroglyphs on the jars. The Children of Horus as stoppers from the canopic jars of Asetemachbjt D

The very earliest canopic equipment consisted of simple chests, or even a specially built cavity in the wall, where wrapped visceral bundles were placed. We find the first possible canopic installations at Saqqara in tombs of the 2nd Dynasty, but proven canopic burials date from the 4th dynasty reign of Senfru ... but by the end of the 4th Dynasty, organs were sometimes placed inside simple stone or pottery jars, with flat or domed lids. The earliest examples of canopic jars come from the 4th dynasty tomb of Queen Meresankh III at Giza, from the reign of Menkaura ... While the First Intermediate Period was a time of Chaos in Egyptian history, it was during this time that the lid of canopic jars started to take on the form of a human head instead of a flat or domed shape. Also, the wrapped bundles of viscera placed in the jars were now sometimes adorned with cartonnage masks with human faces.

-- Taylor Ray Ellison, Canopic Chests and Jars

The four gods were also related to the sky, they were "behind the Constellation of the Thigh (the Great Bear), in the northern sky". The Children of Horus were related to the Decans (groups of stars from the night sky was divided.) The Decans related to them were Kher-Khept-Kenmut, Ha-tchat and Pehui-Tchat. Star Alignment

Image © Robin J. Cook

It was also noted that the constellations of the Great and Little Bears resembled the 'adzes' used in portrayals of the ceremony of the 'Opening of the Mouth', performed on the mummy of the dead king to give it life ... The Great Bear (the Egyptian constellation of the 'Thigh') was associated with the Four Sons of Horus and the cardinal points, and seems in some way to have generated the force that turned the sky.

-- Robin J Cook, Notes on Egyptian Religion and Astronomy

The Sons of Horus on a Blue Water Lily, Before Osiris

They were part of the Seven Spirits (the other three being Maa-atef, Kheribeqef, and Heru-khenti-en-ariti) who made up a group appointed by Anubis. These Seven Spirits (or Seven Shining Ones) were believed to have protected the dead body of Osiris. The positioning for protection of the deceased (emulating that of the dead Osiris) was already well established by the Middle Kingdom.

According to Bernard Mathieu in his paper Les Enfants d'Horus, Théologie et Astronomie, some of the titles for the four sons of Horus were: The Children of Horus, Known to the Gods, Children of Atem, Children of Geb, Children of Nut, The Nobles of the Gods, The Hatchlings of Horus/Horus of Khem, The Four Adolescents, The Four Known Kings, The Four Gods, Spirits of the Four Domains, The Four Emanations, and The Four Heliopolitans.

 

Imsety imstyigod determinative

Imsety from the tomb of Amenherkhepshef He was a human headed god, who was depicted as having a body wrapped up like a mummy. Imsety (Imseti, Imset, Amsit, Amset, Mesta, Kesta) was thought to protect the liver, along with the goddess Isis, which was placed in the canopic jar, near the sarcophagus, on the south cardinal point.

SPEECH OF IMSETY. I am Imsety, thy son, O Osiris Ani, whose word is truth. I come to protect thee. I will make thy house to flourish, permanently, even as Ptah hath commanded me, and as Ra himself hath commanded.

-- Wallis Budge, E.A. 2003, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of Ani, p. 626

A Female Imset? The use of "male and female" before listing the Sons of Horus has made the below verse ambiguous, especially with the way the name of this deity was written. Some believe that because of the feminine t t ending to the name, that this means that the deity was female.

The face of this N is washed by the gods, males and females. Imset, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebehsenuef are at N's right, where Horus is.

-- Harco Willems (1996), The Coffin of Heqata: (Cairo JdE 36418), p. 175

Hans Bonnet, in Reallexikon Der Ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte, wrote that prior to the New Kingdom, this deity was painted yellow (women were generally painted this colour) and didn't have a beard. Bonnett says that originally, a pair of deities may have been hiding under the name Imsety, due to the feminine dual form (ty ty) of the name. The name was then taken to be the name of one female deity. But during the New Kingdom, this goddess was changed to a god, so as to be a Son of Horus.

Others believe that this is weak evidence, and that the Pyramid Text mentioned does not lend much support to this theory. As to the colour theory, this is believed risky. Although men were generally coloured red-brown (indicating a tan from outdoor work), Richard Wilkinson, in Symbol and Magic in Egyptian Art, writes that elderly men could be painted yellow as they tended to no longer work outdoors.

 

Seated Hapy as a baboon-headed god Hapy hpship gearing steer determinativeygod determinative (originally goose determinativegoose determinative )

He was a baboon headed deity, who was shown as having a body wrapped up like a mummy. Hapy (Hapi) was believed to be the protector of the lungs, along with the goddess Nephthys. The lungs were placed in the canopic jar, near the sarcophagus, on the north cardinal point. His name probably means "Runner", and may be related to boating as the determinative in his name ship gearing steer determinative is used in words such as 'oar'.

E.A. Wallis Budge, in Gods of the Egyptians: Volume 1, notes that the usage of the goose hieroglyph dates back to the Pyramid Texts. However, Han Bonnet, in Reallexikon der ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte, notes that the goose hieroglyph was typically doubled. The double goose usage probably added the meaning, "The Two Geese", to Hapy's name, which would suggest that he may have originally been twin gods. Bonnet believes that there was originally a male and a female deity, the female goddess disappeared, and left the male Hapy as the son of Horus. Others, however, believe that the evidence for this is weak.

SPEECH OF HAPY. I am Hapy, thy son, O Osiris Ani, whose word is truth. I come to protect thee. I bind together thy head and the members of thy body. I smite down for thee thine enemies under thee. I give unto thee thy head for ever and for ever, O Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, whose word is truth in peace.

-- Wallis Budge, E.A. 2003, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of Ani, p. 626

 

Duamutef dwmwtfgod determinative

Jackal- or wolf-headed Duamutef The wolf- or jackal-headed deity, Duamutef (Tuamutef), was shown as having a body wrapped up like a mummy. He was believed to protect the stomach, along with the goddess Nit, which was placed in the canopic jar, near the sarcophagus, on the east cardinal point. His name means "he who praises his mother" or "a star is his mother".

The Egyptians seem to sometimes confuse the canid-headed god with the falcon-headed god, and so there are some images and canopic jars showing Duamutef with a falcon head.

SPEECH OF DUAMUTEF. Duamutef saith:- I am thy son Horus, who loveth thee. I come to avenge thee, O my father Osiris, upon him that did evil unto thee. I have set him under thy feet for ever and for ever, permanently, permanently, O Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, whose word is truth.

-- Wallis Budge, E.A. 2003, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of Ani, p. 626

 

Qebehsenuef qbsnsnsnfgod determinative

Qebehsenuef from the tomb of Prince Montuherkhepeshef The falcon headed god, Qebehsenuef (Qebsenuf, Kebehsenuef, Kebhsenuf, Kabexnuf), was depicted as having a body wrapped up like a mummy. He was thought to be protector of the intestines, along with the goddess Serqet. The intestines were placed in the canopic jar, near the sarcophagus, on the west cardinal point. His name means "he who refreshes [with water] his brothers".

The Egyptians seem to sometimes confuse the falcon-headed god with the canid-headed god, and so there are some images and canopic jars showing Qebehsenuef with a jackal or wolf head.

SPEECH OF QEBEHSENUEF. Qebehsenuef saith:- I am thy son, O Osiris Ani, whose word is truth. I come to protect thee. I have collected thy bones and I have gathered together thy members. [I have brought thy heart, and I have placed it upon its throne within thy body. I make thy house to flourish after thee, O thou who livest for ever.]

-- Wallis Budge, E.A. 2003, The Book of the Dead: The Hieroglyphic Transcript of the Papyrus of Ani, p. 627

Thanks to those who helped with information on the possible duality/femininity of Imsety.


Further Information about the Sons of Horus


Video of Sons of Horus

A video filled with images of the gods Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef and Qebehsenuef, by Egyptahotep:


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