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Seraperion I & II (cont.)
By Antoine Gigal

Why is there still a doubt? Well, simply because the mummy has vanished. Yes. As usual, the really significant objects cannot be found. It is even more unfortunate because Mariette's detailed reports on the Serapeum have also disappeared, strangely enough ・The fact is that Prince Khaemwaset did not only contribute to the enlargement of the underground labyrinth and oversee seven Apis burials in the Serapeum, but he showed a genuine devotion to this place. Why? Why did the fourth son of the pharaoh Ramses II undertake throughout his life to restore the teachings of the Great Ancestors, those who had arrived first in the land of Egypt? The prince was working to re-establish those aspects of the Tradition that were the most sophisticated, the most secret and the most magical. Why did he, as we are told, at the end of his life live almost all the time in the underground Serapeum?

First of all, who was he? After a period of military honours - he was known to have been present at the famous Battle of Kadesh - he became a priest and then governor of Memphis and Grand Sem Priest of Ptah worship in Memphis. He was president of all the craftsmen. He is often called the first Egyptologist in history because he carried out an unprecedented campaign to restore the ancient monuments of his country, such as the pyramid of Unas and a dozen pyramids and important monuments of previous dynasties. His passion for his country's past made him inscribe on a statue, "I love so much antiquity and the nobility of the earliest times." Very learned, he also had a huge library of documents on sacred and magical subjects that aroused envy in the ancient world. He founded the library of the Ramesseum in Western Thebes which contained only papyri about magic. He is said to be, among other things, the author of the "Papyrus that produces terror and respect" mentioned in the time of Ramses III.

Left: Prince Khaemwaset depicted on the wall of his tomb, Center: Prince Khaemwaset when young, Right: Funerary mask of Prince Khaemwaset

This attitude of collecting, of gathering evidence and knowledge of the past, of respect and maintenance of the Tradition, in itself marks Khaemwaset as a constant researcher of the hidden principle of divine intelligence and the human capacity to rediscover it. His approach corresponds to the spirit of the god Thoth-Tehuti, of whom (I haven't yet told you this) many experts now dare to think that Imhotep could be the direct descendant, if he is not the same person. Much later, the Greeks claimed that Khaemwaset possessed the famous Emerald Tablet of Thoth-Tehuti-Hermes and they always called him the "King of Magicians". Remember that in the 3rd century Clement of Alexandria considered Egypt to be the "Mother of all Mages". Khaemwaset was known for working against the Nubian magicians to prevent any foreign takeover of Egypt. He was a great magical protector of the existence of the country and of Pharaoh. In short, the prince was passionate about the most secret mysteries.

What do we learn from this? That one of the projects which he held closest to his heart was to restore in his lifetime the practice of the Sed festival. This was a great ritual festival which originally was to be celebrated every thirty years of the pharaoh's reign so as to renew his accession. It was the celebration of the Jubilee. In fact the Prince reintroduced the Sed festival in favour of his father Ramses II, who celebrated it 14 times during his reign. Why? Well, because to initiates, Sed was in truth a great ritual of rejuvenation. No need to wonder at the incredibly long life in full fitness of his father Ramses II, the pharaoh who lived the longest. In the original form of the Sed festival, the pharaoh had to run naked in the full sun and without food or drink, until sundown some say, around places that symbolised the different provinces of southern and northern Egypt. If he did not die of exhaustion that meant that he was reinstated in office by the approval of the gods. After that came all sorts of secret rites enacted out of sight in the holy of holies of the temple, including invigorating rituals of rejuvenation. It is mentioned sometimes that the pharaoh had to spend a whole night wrapped in a bull's hide. If he could not stand the physical effort of running, if he was taken ill, it was said that it was time for him to join his ka, that's to say, to move on to the next world.

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