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Seraperion I & II (cont.)
By Antoine Gigal


Banebdjedet

And what was Imhotep's genealogy? His mother Kheredu-ankh was a mortal raised to the rank of semi-divine (like the mother of Asclepius) as she claimed that her father was the god Banebdjedet, a ram god of fertility that the Greeks later named Pan.

This very strange ram curiously had four heads, two facing backwards, two facing forward. It was said that within it was incorporated the essence of the world in four forms representing the four spirits souls (ba) of the four masters of the world Ra-Shu-Geb-Osiris (perhaps at a time when these four deities were embodied together in a ram?) In any case in Edfu, Banebdjedet was celebrated as one of the Great Ancestors. And at Mendes (Tell el Rub'a) there were found sarcophagi (of normal size) containing mummified sacred rams. His wife was the fish goddess Het-Merit. In ancient Egypt fish represent the transformation of the gods - don't you find that all this fits the same theme of metamorphoses and transformations, of gods producing different frequencies and manifestations? In short, there's a lot of similarity with Asclepius. Let's not forget that the ancient Greeks already disagreed about Asclepius, saying he was much older than the official dating was willing to say (even then). Linguists argue that the true meaning of the name Asklepios etymologically is "the hero of the mound". Now all the sacred history of Egypt is based on a primitive mound raised above the waters.

Finally, might not Aesculapius and Imhotep be the same person? Do they not seem alike because of their semi-divine origins, their concept of medicine and the almost miraculous power that they had over health, transformation and even resurrection? In both cases there is the use of a temple sanatorium (at Saqqara archaeologists know there was one next to the Serapeum like that of Alexandria), and of an underground network, all related to snakes. According to the Egyptian historian Ahmed Osman, the Serapeum was maintained and served by sort of volunteer monks, who watched over the patients in the complex. "The followers of the cult of Serapis were supposed to be granted the right to eternal life without the need of mummification if they showed devotion to the deity and went through an initiation ritual that included baptism with water." Is it not this same immortality that one is supposed to gain in Catholicism through baptism?

On the other hand, we have a cult of metamorphosis, that of the sacred bull Apis as Ptah/Zeus/Jupiter honoured among the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. There are a large number of ancient writings on the many transformations of Zeus/Jupiter into a bull, for example the whole story of Io (her other name is Europa), who is transformed into a cow by Zeus, then arrives in Egypt, recovers human form and gives birth to Apis who propagated the cult of Isis, founded Memphis and was worshiped as a god-pharaoh, as I mentioned in the first part of this article. Io was said to correspond to the goddess Hathor, which would be very consistent. On the other hand many Egyptologists equate Imhotep with Thoth-Tehuti. The cult of Thoth resulted in a cult of the ibis, his preferred form of transformation, and there are catacombs filled with the mummies of this bird beside the Serapeum of Saqqara as well as in Abydos.


Auguste Mariette

It is time to say something about one of the greatest magicians of all Egypt. More than a thousand years after his death, he was still considered a hero by the Greeks and the Egyptians. He is the Prince Khaemweset (1290-1224 BC), son of the pharaoh Ramses II. Why was this prince so dedicated to the Serapeum during his life? To the extent that when Mariette had to use explosives to get through a large rock blocking the first gallery of the Serapeum, and in the rubble found a mummy with a golden mask with human features, he deduced that it could only be Prince Khaemwaset. Certainly his seal was everywhere on the objects and jewellery found with the mummy. However a significant doubt remained. First, Mariette could have been influenced at the time by late stories attributing to the prince a desire to be buried with the bulls. Then certain things just didn't hold together. Some Egyptologists think this mummy could very well be that of an unknown man buried in a crypt above the vault. Apparently the wall of the crypt collapsed under the impact of the blast. For others, much better informed in my opinion, this mummy, even though it had an anthropomorphic shape and gold funerary mask with human features, in fact contained the remains of a bull that had been given human shape, with jewellery and amulets bearing the name of Khaemwaset.

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