The tenth hour of the Book of Gates deals with the battle to subdue Apep (Apophis). In the top and bottom registers we see manifestations of the sun god who use their power to subdue the serpent.
In the top register there is a hawk-headed sphinx with Horus–Set standing on its back. To the left of the sphinx there are four gods wearing the crown of Upper Egypt (“the Gods of the North”) who are helping a male figure raise a standard. To the right of the sphinx another four gods (“the Gods of the South”) this time wearing the crown of Lower Egypt help a male figure to raise a standard. Moving right, we see the serpent Shemti with four heads on each side of the male figure (Apu) who supports it. Beside this is another serpent, Bata, who wears the crown of Lower Egypt on each head and is supported by four figures on each side and a male figure (Abeth) who holds the middle of the snake. Finally, there are two male figures holding nets above their heads. The text reads….
“Those who are in this scene rise up for Ra, who says to them “Receive your heads, O gods, and draw tightly the front end of your rope. Hail, O gods, come into being! Hail, possess the power of light, O gods, and come into being, O gods. Possess the power of light, O gods, by my coming into being in the secret place, and by my power of light in the hidden place, in the chambers of things.”
(above the gods of the North) “Ra says to them ‘Let your heads be to you, O gods! Receive your crowns of the North, and pull tightly at the end of the boat of him that comes into being from me. Behold now Horus of the beautiful Face’.”
(above the serpent Shemti) “He who is in this picture strides through the secret place, and he withdraws to Qatemt the Hall of Ament. Those who are in it are the heads which have been devoured, and they breathe the odour of Shemti of which Apu is the warder.”
(above the serpent Bata) “He who is in this picture makes his rising up for Osiris, and he keeps count of the souls which are doomed in the Duat. He strides through the secret place, and he withdraws to Tesert-baiu, to the Hall of Ament; then Tepi enters into Bata. Those who are in it are they whose heads have been devoured. They breathe the odour of Bata, of which Abeth is the guardian.”
(above the two gods holding the nets) “These are the gods who make use of words of power for Horus–Ra in Ament. [They have power] over the net, and they make use of words of power on those who are in the net[s] which are in their hands.”
In the middle register the sun is again towed by four gods. In front of the barque stand a series of deities holding magical nets to render the serpent defenseless: six male figures (“those who are over the words of magical power”), four dog-headed figures (“those who work magic by means of knots for Ra”) and four females (“those who work magic by means of knots for Ra”). They are followed by three male figures holding a harpoon in their right hand and a cord in their left. In front of them the “Old One” (possibly Geb) has their ropes tied around his body. They face Apep (the serpent) and Shesshes (the crocodile). The text in the middle section reads…
“The great god is towed along by the gods of the Duat, and those who tow Ra along say “The god comes to his body, and the god is towed along to his shadow. O be at peace with your body, and we will tow you along in your integrity to your secret place. Come, O Ra, and be at peace with your body, for you shalt be protected by those who hold the curved ropes”
(of the figures in front of the barque) “Those who are in this picture march before Ra, and they utter words of power against Apep, and return to the hall of the horizon. They journey onwards with him into the height of heaven, and they come into being for him in the Aterti (where the sun rises and sets), and they cause him to rise in Nut. And they say their words of power which are.. “Out you, O Rebel Serpent! Out you, monster that destroys, Apep that sends forth evil emanations! Your face shall be destroyed, O Apep. You shall advance to the block of execution. The Nemu are against you, and they willl hack you into pieces. The Aaiu are against you, and they shall destroy you. The Abebuiti (spearmen) shall drive [their harpoons] into you, and enchant you by means of their call! You are destroyed, dashed in pieces, and stabbed to death, O serpent Sessi”.
On the left of the lower register we see sixteen gods holding a rope with both hands: Four bearded males (“the souls of Ament”), four ibis-headed figures (“the followers of Thoth”), four are hawk-headed figures (“the followers of Horus”) and four ram-headed figures (“the followers of Ra”).To the right, eight bearded figures who stand at the other end of the scene in two groups of four also grasp a rope with both hands. The rope is attached to the legs of the enormous serpent Khepri who has a head at each end of its body with legs and a uraeus. On the back of the serpent stands a hawk wearing the double crown – “Horus of the Duat”. The text reads…
“The Souls of Ament, and the Followers of Thoth who tow Khepri. Those who are in this scene have the rope in their hands, and it is fastened to the leg[s] of Khepri, who moves backwards to the Hall of their horizon. They draw this rope with the god into their horizon, and they tow him along in the sky (Nut). They live upon the, things of the South, and their sustenance is from the things of the North, [and they exist] on that which comes forth from the mouth of Ra. The voice of this serpent Khepri goes round about and travels into the secret place after Ra hath entered into the height of heaven.”
(above the sixteen gods) “They say to Ra ‘Come, O come, after your transformations! Come, Ra, after your transformations! Appear, appear, after your transformations! Appear, O Ra, after your transformations in heaven, in the great heaven! Hail! We decree for you your habitations by the excellence which is in the words of the Mighty One of Forms in the secret place”.
(above Horus of the Duat) “He who is in this scene is Heru Duati. The head comes forth from him, and the forms [in which he appeareth] from the coiled [serpent]. Ra cries to this god to whom the two divine ureai unite themselves; he enters into the way into Khepri, Who listens when Ra calls to him”.
(the four beings to each side of the serpent) “they say to Ra ‘The ways of the hidden place are open to you, and [the portals] which are in the earth are unfolded for you, the Soul which Nut loves, and we will guide your wings to the mountain. Hail! Enter into the East, and make your passage from between the thighs of your mother’.”
On the far right we see the gate at the end of the tenth hour. The serpent is named Sethu. It is guarded by Nemi and Khefi The text says…
“This great god comes forth to this gate, and enters through it, and the gods who are there acclaim the great god. [The Uraei say] “Come to us, O you who are at the head of the horizon, O great god who opens the secret place, open the holy pylons and unfold the portals of the earth”. He who is over this gate opens to Ra. Sia says unto Sethu, “Open your gate, unfold your portal, so that he may illuminate the thick darkness, and may send light into the hidden realm”. This gate closes after the great god has passed through it, and the uraei who are on the other side of it wail when they hear it closing upon them.”
- Hornung, Erik (1999) The Ancient Egyptian Books of the Afterlife
- Wallis Budge, E.A. (1905) The Book of Gates
Copyright J Hill 2018