Egyptian Deities at General Liddament’s Mess

Nick attends the mess of General Liddament, a severe presence who is flanked at table by two colonels: “Here was Pharaoh, carved in the niche of a shrine between two tutelary deities who shielded him from human approach.  All was manifest.  Colonel Hogbourne-Johnson and Colonel Pedlar were animal-headed gods of Ancient Egypt.  Colonel Hogbourne-Johnson was, of course, Horus, one of those sculptured representations in which the Lord of the Morning Sun resembles an owl rather than a falcon; a bad-tempered owl at that.  Colonel Pedlar’s dogs’s muzzle, on the other hand, was a milder than normal version of the Jackal-faced Anubis, whose dominion over Tombs and the Dead did indeed fall within A&Q’s province.” [SA 37/35]

As he did in A Question of Upbringing (see QU 214/221, Le Bas’ Appearance), Powell here evokes impressions of Ancient Egyptian imagery more than references to particular works.  Below is a sculpture of the Pharaoh Ramses II “shielded from human approach” by the gods Ptah (left) and Sekhmet (right).

669px-Ramesses-Ptah-Sekhmet

Reliefs of Ramses II, Ptah and Sekhmet The Egyptian Museum, Cairo photo by Daniel Mayer, cropped by AnnekeBart from Wikimedia Commons by GNU Free Documentation License

Colonel Hogbourne-Johnson as the god Horus was easy to envision, though not as an owl, as Nick has it, but as a falcon, bad-tempered to be sure.  Here is Horus as he is depicted at the Temple at Edfu from the first couple of centuries B.C.

Horus Temple of Horus, Edfu granite, 237 B.C. or earlier photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

Horus
Temple of Horus, Edfu
granite, 237 B.C. or earlier
photo in public domain from Wikimedia Commons

The identities of Egyptian deities is not constant over the long evolution of the Egyptian pantheon, but Horus is generally known as the son of Isis and the rival of Set, slayer of Osiris, Horus’ father, or sometimes brother. Horus is also identified with the sun and the moon, and Pharaoh himself came to be identified with Horus while alive, then as Osiris after death.  The Horus at Edfu, judging from his fierce expression, might easily be a colonel who aspires to become a general as soon as possible.

 

Anubis white marble, height 62" 1st-2nd century AD From Anzio, Villa Pamphili Vatican Museum, Rome photo from Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons GNU license

Anubis
white marble, height 62″
1st-2nd century AD
From Anzio, Villa Pamphili
Vatican Museum, Rome
photo from Wikimedia Commons by Creative Commons GNU license

Anubis, shown above,  was the jackal-headed god who was associated, as Nick suggests, with mummification of the dead and supervision of souls into the afterlife. Colonel Pedlar as a mild-faced Anubis came readily to mind when we saw this Anubis in the Vatican collection. It is from the Roman period late in Egypt’s history and is actually a blend of Anubis and the Greek god Hermes.   We liked how this more doggy Anubis sports military braids and medals and looks as if he would be right at home at General Liddament’s mess.

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One Response to Egyptian Deities at General Liddament’s Mess

  1. kcm76 says:

    Along with the opening of A Question of Upbringing, that section from The Soldier’s Art is one of my favourite passages in the whole of Dance. Not just for the imagery, which is superb, but also for the tightness of the prose.

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