In the Pyramid texts, Mahaf was the ferryman who captained the boat of Aken as it carried the deceased into the underworld. He also acted as a herald who announced the arrival of the Pharaoh to the sun god, Ra.

His name originally meant “the stern is behind him” but due to a similarity in its sound seems to have become “he whose sight is behind him” or “he who sees behind him”. As a result, he was generally depicted in the Book of the Dead as looking over his shoulder. He was also occasionally referred to as Herenhaf (“he whose face is behind him”).

The role of Mahaf had changed by the time the Coffin Texts appeared in the First Intermediate Period. He continued to man the ferryboat but was also the leader of the fishermen who tried to ensnare the dead in their nets (CT 474). In the Book of the Dead the deceased must implore Mahaf to awaken Aken so that he will bring his boat for Mahaf to captain. Mahaf then proceeds to question the deceased regarding his intentions and worthiness.

  • “The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts” (2004) Raymond O. Faulkner
  • “The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead” (1985) Raymond O. Faulkner

Copyright J Hill 2015