Black Spirituality Religion : Towards a method for a refined reading of hieroglyphs

Discussion in 'Black Spirituality / Religion - General Discussion' started by imhotep06, Jul 22, 2010.

  1. imhotep06

    imhotep06 Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jan 21, 2004
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    Towards a method for a refined reading of hieroglyphs
    by Mujilu Mukatapa (Asar Imhotep)
    MOCHA Versity Institute of Philosophy and Research

    This brief post is concerned with how to properly interpret the so-called determinatives in the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. We will demonstrate that the determinatives were not silent bystanders, but often the sound value of the word was in fact the sound value of the primary determinative(s) and that sound value was used to convey other words within the same conceptual semantic field.

    As noted from the likes of Laird Scranton (see Sacred Symbols of the Dogon), the Egyptian priest scribes tried to make reading the glyphs as simple as possible. They injected certain conventions in the script so that the script itself defined the words under examination (as they did not compile dictionaries). In other words, the very script acts as its own dictionary. You just have to be knowledgeable of the terms used in the script.

    For the sake of space and time, we will only briefly examine two examples to demonstrate the convention expressed in the mdw nTr writing. The first example will be with the Egyptian word mnmn=t “herd, group of animals, group of cattle.”


    In the ciLuba language this word is spoken as CIMUNA “domestic animal” derived from MUNA “livestock.” The m-n root in Egyptian is repeated for emphasis as a way to denote a large quantity. The root word is simply mn=t, not mnmn=t. The –t suffix (so called feminine -t) is prefixed in ciLuba. The Egyptian –t corresponds to ciLuba ci-, ti-, di-, and tshi- prefixes. This word can also be written as diMuna (ngomba, miKoko/ mPanga ne mbushi). Muna is also the word for “breeding” in ciLuba (syn. Lumunyinu).

    Here we see that the determinatives are not merely there for clarity, as the consonantic sound value for livestock itself, expressed in the determinatives, is MN. By examining the proto-forms of African languages, we know this root is two words agglutinated and its current form is the result of metathesis.

    There is evidence that in the early period of these respective languages that there was free word order with the morphemes (Campbell-Dunn 2009: 7). The question is, is the determinative here to clarify the word? Or is the word here to clarify the determinative? There are certain “key words” and various conventions within mdw ntr that we don’t have time to get into here. But there are certain things as defining words where the words consisting of clear sound values attached to glyphs do in fact define the determinative.

    [h1]Example 2[/h1]

    The next word under examination is mna ‘nurse’ or another form mna=t “nurse guardian” in Egyptian.

    mna=t “Nurse, Guardian”

    mna “Nurse”

    cimuna / Ndami (ciLuba) = educator, teacher, nurse. All throughout Africa, carvings or depictions of a woman breast feeding a child is not only a symbol for nursing, but also represents “teaching/initiation.” The mother is the child’s first teacher. The first ‘throne’ a child sits on is its mother’s lap. This is why the throne in African societies is considered a “feminine” object. It is also at the core of the practice of “matrilineal” descent to the throne of African kingdoms.

    The above renditions of mna/mna=t has a determinative of a woman suckling her child. The following simply has a breast to convey the concept. We will see other possible meanings by comparing the Egyptian with ciLuba.

    mna=t “nurse”

    Mna (Egyptian) = amwina (ciLuba) = wean, breastfeeding
    AMwA> amwin, amwisha (ciLuba) = action of "breastfeeding, weaning
    CyAmwina, CyA-mwinu (ciLuba) = Source / place of breastfeeding/suckle

    As we can see, African interpretations of examining the determinative gives us insight into the word. Not only that, but they often carry the same phonetics as the word represented with the monoliterals. To demonstrate further that this is not a fluke, let’s just examine a determinative and see what we can come up with.
    When you think of an alligator, what do you think of? Words that come to mine for me are “scary, vicious, death, aggressive, hunter, roll of death move, aquatic, killer, efficient attacker.” Here is the Egyptian for alligator (there are actually several others)


    However, the alligator determinative is not only used to expressed the word alligator. The same symbol and same phonetics are used to expressed qualities that you might associate with a crocodile/alligator. This convention is not only in ciKam (Egyptian) but also in the ciLuba language. Observe:

    3d/ad "be savage, be aggressive, be angry, attack, anger"

    3d “anger”

    3dw “aggressor”

    Let us compare our term to that in ciLuba:

    Egyptian > ciLuba > “Definition”
    3d/3dw = ng-Andu, g-andu, (lingala: gando, nkando): “alligator”
    3d = >oot (Anda, tandu, tand; ma-tand(u/o), ku ma-kand): “To verbally express anger, to dispute, argue hotly, quarrel”

    Ditanda “reprimand, warning”
    Matandu “quarrels”
    Tandisha “scold, chew out”
    Tandangana “bickering, quarrel”

    kanda > di-kanda = ngolu = bu-kol: “physical force, energy”
    3d = anda, kaanda, taanda, buunda

    It should also be noted that this same root sound value is the same in ciKam and ciLuba for the word "papyrus."

    dyt "papyrus plant" D46-M17-M17-X1-M15
    dt "a plant, papyrus marsh" D46-X1-Z1-M2-Z23

    ngandu = papyrus
    andw (is the root)

    By this last case study, we understand two things: 1) the sound value of the “stem” is often the sound value of the determinative, 2) the ancient Egyptians used the hieroglyphic symbols to bring about other words, using the same sound values of the determinative, based on deeper meanings of the sign. In other words, there is more to the meaning of symbols other than the “obvious” representation of the sign. The ancient Egyptians derived different layers of meaning for the sign which culminated into different words within the same conceptual theme. In linguistics we call this the “Associative Field Theory.” The ancient Egyptians used the sign of an alligator to convey the concepts of “angry, force, aggressiveness, and to attack.” These descriptors are reaffirmed in the ciLuba language with added insight into the words possible usage in ancient Egyptian.

    If we had space and time we could cite many other examples of this. This exercise was to help shift the consciousness on how to read hieroglyphic signs. In my spiritual tradition we say that African proverbs, metaphors and signs have a “revealed front-view” and a “concealed rear-view.” This means there is an obvious, surface understanding to concepts expressed by African people; and existing simultaneously is a deeper, richer meaning that is not so readily available to the open senses.

    To understand the meaning and usage of hieroglyphs, one must be able to penetrate and have access to the “concealed rear-view” of the symbols. This isn’t a deep esoteric exercise. It just takes one to sit down and study the characteristics of the “sign” in real life. It is with this understanding of how to access meaning in Mdw Ntr that one will understand what is actually meant by words like nTr “god” and the symbols used to convey the concept. I argue that this is the only valid method to obtain the true meanings of words in Mdw Ntr because this is the very practice the ancients used 1) to create the script and 2) it is how modern-day African priests read signs and proverbs in their respective spiritual traditions. We will deal with this in the weeks to come.
  2. imhotep06

    imhotep06 Well-Known Member MEMBER

    Jan 21, 2004
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    What makes this practice “African” is in the approach on how they interpret phenomena (the method) and how they convey their interpretation of world phenomena through the use of signs and symbols. We will look at one more example, that I think anyone can grasp, which will demonstrate that the luntu bwenu bukame (people of km=t) had an underlying convention which gave their words meaning by associating physical and non physical characteristics of the determinative to bring about a deeper understanding of the word itself.

    For our example we will look at the flamingo determinative. As mentioned before, the Egyptian script is its own dictionary and the Egyptians had what we call “defining” words. These are words that simply define the symbols used in the writings by giving you their sound values. They simply consist of the phonetic values + the sign being defined (the determinative).

    dsr flamingo D46:N37-D21-G27

    Here we see that the word for flamingo is composed of the d-s-r root. So anywhere this determinative is used, we can assume that it also has a sound value of dsr. So it’s no surprise that the because of it’s sound value of the root d-s-r, that the flamingo determinative is used in a word with the same root that means “red.” But is the association with the flamingo with the word “red” used solely because they share the same consonantic root? Or is there something else which connects these two concepts?

    dsr red, reddening D46:N37-D21-G27

    If anyone has ever seen an adult flamingo, one will notice immediately that the flamingo’s color is red. This means that not only do dsr “flamingo” and dsr “red” share the same consonant root structure, they also share the same physical characteristics: they are both “red.”


    This would explain why the flamingo determinative is also used in the Egyptian word for “blood.”

    dsrt blood D46:N37-D21-G27-X1:N33A

    The major characteristic of blood is its color. It is the most distinctive factor in characterizing blood, especially from other bodily fluids. There is nothing to suggest that flamingos are associated with blood for any other reason but they share the same color. But how do we explain the usage of the flamingo in the word for “wrath?”

    dsrw wrath D46:N37-D21-G43-G27-Z2

    One cannot successfully argue that the flamingo is a “phonetic complement” as the flamingo is at the END of the word. In other words, it doesn’t read as Flamingo + D + S + R + W. It is the exact opposite. If the flamingo was used for its sound association, then it would be first in the line-up of glyphs. The usage of the triliteral plus all three values using a monoliteral to represent each sound is unnecessary and redundant as the word would read as: dsrwdsr.

    Now reduplication is a major feature of African languages for emphasis to convey intensity by the multiplication of the term in sequence. But this doesn’t seem to be the case as this is normally done with the same phonetic symbols as in our word mnmn=t “herd, group of cattle” from the root MUNA “livestock, breeding” (in ciLuba). Dsrw is however written with the flamingo as the stem with the <r> mouth sign as a complement. Notice the difference:

    dsrw wrath G27-D21-G43-Z2

    So why associate the flamingo with the word “wrath?” Flamingos aren’t violent animals and quite peaceable and are often used as a sign of peace. My hypothesis is that the ancient Egyptian scribes are trying to associate the color “red” with being “hot and angry.” We have this same association in modern times; thus the term “red with anger.”


    They are trying to hint at the EFFECT of being highly emotional. We know this because of another word related to dsrw “wrath”:

    dsr ib "furious" D46:N37-D21-G27-F34-Z1

    The usage of the heart informs us of the association of emotions and turning “red.” The heart is the seat of emotion. (it is also red in color). Let’s examine another rendering of the word furious:

    dsr hr "furious" D46:N37-D21-G27-D2:Z1

    As we can see here, they are using the determinative sign of a head. The usage of the single stroke under the head informs us that we are to interpret the sign of the head “literally.” That means the simple meaning of the term dsr hr should be “red head.” In modern terminology we would say “hot headed.” This is so because when a person gets angry the blood rushes to the surface of the face giving it a red color.

    The association of red with hot is not only a modern convention, but the ancient Egyptians did it as well; thus the association between dsr “red” and dsrt “the desert.”

    dsrt "the red land/desert" D46:N37-D21:X1-G27-N25

    As we can see with this brief case-study, the determinatives, when examined closely, provide a wealth of information in regards to why the Egyptians chose it to represent certain words. By knowing the characteristics of the LIVING GLYPH, one can reaffirm the meaning of the term under examination. So studying mdw nTr as a writing script is more than taking note of its grammar and memorizing definitions. It is a study of biology, physics, sociology and philosophy.

    It is these types of conventions that will help us get to the bottom of what a nTr is and why they chose the symbols they selected to represent this concept. Again, this isn’t deep esoteric spookism. This is the practical convention of a priest class who is trying to accurately convey concepts which force you, the reader of mdw nTr, to use both sides of your brain when studying phenomena.

    For those who have been a part of an indigenous African education system, you will fully understand me when I say that the aim of the pedagogical system is to develop a holistic way of thinking for problem solving. In order to do this one cannot look at situations on a surface level: one must see the hidden layers of reality in order to be an effective problem solver. The study of mdw nTr is an exercise, a training course if you will, on how to think holistically, to see with all “four” eyes (the open and closed senses), and to solve problems in the most efficient manner.

    A good source on the physical characteristics of flamingos, one can visit this link: