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Boats of the Deities: The Barque

Gods

What: There were two forms of Barque: a floating full-size Boat and a Sacred Barque which was a miniaturised form to hold the Statue of the Deity.

More details: A Barque was a Religious Artefact of the Deities which allowed their physical form in the guise of a cult statue to move around during Festivals and for other religious reasons. Also, the Barque would carry the deceased Pharaoh on the journey from being a Human Royal to a Deity.

Where: Throughout Egypt in Temples for the Deities use in their Barque Shrines where the Boats remained when they were not needed.

When: From 1st Dynasty to the end of the Deities Reigns in Egypt with the introduction of Christianity and Islam.

Why: From a religious perspective, the Earthly Barques that the Deity used represented how they moved throughout the night’s sky as the Milky Way was considered a mirror sky form of the River Nile.

Note: It is posited that allowing the populace to see the barques allowed them to not only have a closer relationship with the Deity carried inside but also showed them how the deceased would use the Boat to rise from the trials of the Duat to Aaru, the Field of Reeds.

The Barque of Ra

Ra’s Barque was used in his daily Solar Journey and was a symbolic Boat rather than one which an Egyptian would see during Festivals on the Nile.

The Story: Ra’s form in the morning was the Scarab-faced God, Khepri, who represents the rising or morning sun. By Midday, Ra had transformed into God Ra-Horakhty, the Falcon Headed God with the noonday sun on his head. Ra’s form by evening was the God Atum, the complete one and this is where he used his Solar Barque with the assistance of his fellow Deities and Deified Pharaohs who he spits back out at sunset, having swallowed them at Dawn. Using the Deities as his guide and as his assistants, Ra uses his own and their powers to defeat all opposition to his route to rebirth at dawn.

 

Used for: The Barque was used for transportation between Temples during the Feast of Opet if the River Nile was used as some Opet Festivals used the Sphinx Walk between Karnak and Luxor Temples. Also used during the Wadi Festival when the Theban Triad; God Amun, Goddess Mut and God Khonsu; were transported between the East Bank of the Nile to the West Bank of the Nile to celebrate the deceased.

Docked: The Amun Barque was nominally docked on the Sacred Lake, Karnak Temple, Thebes.

The Barque of Amun

What: The Mighty of Brow is Amun, constructed and maintained in Karnak Temple

Who: Gift to Thebes by Pharaoh Ahmose I, New Kingdom Period

Design: As a living and floating design, Egyptologist Margaret Bunson states that the Barque was, “….covered in gold from the waterline up and was filled with cabins, obelisks, niches, and elaborate adornments…”. The Barque included a Cabin like room for the statue of God Amun to be carried in.

The Barque of Osiris

What: The Neshmet Barque, constructed and maintained in Abydos

Who: Built and maintained by each Pharaoh during their reign, as this was seen as one of the Ma’at obligations within Pharaoh’s reign

When: Throughout Ancient Egypt

Used for: Reliving the story of God Osiris’ life, death and deified change contrived by his Goddess Wife, Isis.

Other Barques

It is thought that every Deity who had a substantial Temple named after them were thought to at least have had a smaller Sacred Barque to be used by them for Feast and Festival Days when these would have been paraded by the Priests in order for the population to be able to physically “see” their God or Goddess.

The popular Deities are all thought to have had use of their own floating Barques which would have been covered in gold and jewels to honour the Deity which would be carried inside it. The Deity’s own Priests would have rowed the Deity around the Sacred Lake of the Temple, on the River Nile for Feast and Festival occasions.

The God Khonsu’s Barque was known as the “Brilliant of Brow”, while the God Min’s Barque was called the “Great of Love”. Goddess Hathor’s Barque was kept at Dendera Temple whilst God Sokar’s Barque, known as the Hennu, was kept at Medinet Habu, Thebes; and God Horus’ Barque kept in Edfu Temple.