Friday, April 07, 2006

Star Blogs & Egyptian Iwen

1) In typical style, Steliano has written an outstanding post on the decision tree and trusting one's intuition.
In part of my comment I dealt with a line he had written:

"Life has no memory, why should we?"

Because we are the are the ones that experience life. Life is a process, and we are sentient beings who learn from it. Our brains are the nets that catch life and keep it as it flows through us.


2) Rebecca blogged today about a wedding she is attending this weekend near Venice:

Italians tend to get married in the late morning. This way you have a 7 hour lunch and then go home and die and then go to the hospital and then come home again and sleep.

Tops! It is my favourite sentence from her entire blog so far, and she produces some real gems, I tell you.

**********

Iwen...

...is Egyptian for colour, appearance, character, being, nature. It was integral to every person and every object in ancient Egypt.

The Egyptians used a limited palette and every colour was believed to hold certain qualities. Because of this, they were carefully paired for the utmost effect.

For instance:
1. Gold and Silver - the duality of opposites, like sun and moon.
2. Red and White - the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
3. Green and Black - two aspects of regeneration.


I. Black - kem -- fertility, new life, resurrection

This is the colour of the fertile silt left by the annual Nile floods. Ancient Egypt was called Kemet, the black land. It symbolises the agricultural processes facilitated by the all-important floods.

Osiris, resurrected god of the dead, was known as "the black one". It was the colour of the underworld, where the sun regenerated every night. Used on paintings and sculpture, black was expected to invoke the process of regeneration.

It was also the standard hair colour and used to represent the skin of the Nubians and Kushites, people from the lands south of Egypt.


II. White - hedj -- purity, cleanliness, sacredness, simplicity

This is the colour of tools, sacred objects and animals, even priests' sandals. In real life, clothing was undyed linen and translated easily to art.

Silver is also hedj but written in the determinative case (grammar) signifying precious metals. This is the colour of the sun at dawn, the moon and stars. Since silver was rarer than gold in Egypt, it was the most valued.


III. Blue
- irtyu -- the heavens, dominion of the gods, water, floods

The Egyptians favoured semi-precious blue stones such as azurite (tefer) and lapis lazuli (khesbedj). The degree to which the stones were ground determined the shade of blue produced, from fine light blue to coarse royal blue.

Synthetic blue became known in the medieval world as Egyptian blue.

Lapis lazuli, imported across the Sinai desert at great cost, produced the deepest blue and represented the colour of the hair of the gods and the face of the god Amun and the Pharaohs associated with him.


IV. Green - wahdj -- fresh growth, vegetation, new life, well-being, resurrection
The hieroglyph is a papyrus stem and frond.

This was the colour of the "Eye of Horus" (wedjat) which had healing and protective powers.
In Egypt, to "do green things" meant to behave in a positive, life-affirming manner.

Written in the determinative case to signify minerals (hieroglyph = three grains of sand), wahdj was the word for malachite, which represented joy.

The Egyptians were able to manufacture a green pigment, verdigris, or hes-byah, which means copper or bronze rust.

Turquoise (mefkhat) was highly valued and came from Sinai. It represented joy and the colour of the sun's rays at dawn. The goddess Hathor, Lady of Turquoise, controlled the destiny of newborn babies and so this was a colour of prophecy and foretelling.


V. Yellow
- khenet -- the sun, perfection

It was used to represent women's skin and the skin of Mediterranean neighbours such as Libyans, Syrians, the Bedouin, Hittites.

Synthetic yellow was made of lead antimonite which renders pale, but the original name is unknown. It is difficult to distinguish today because lead white deepens to yellow, whereas the strong yellow of orpiment fades with time.

(Orange was considered a yellow because the name "orange" only came into use when the fruits spread from China in the middle ages.)

Gold (newb) represented the skin of the gods in sculpture and symbolised eternity and indestructibility. Gold leaf was therefore used on sarcophagi because the pharaoh had become a god.
In painting, the gods' skin was represented by yellow, reddish-yellow, blue, green, or black.


VI. Red
- deshr -- chaos, disorder, destructive fire, fury, danger
Hieroglyph: the desert-dwelling ibis

This represented the desert (deshret, red land) which was the opposite of the fertile land (kemet, black land). The principle red, ochre, was obtained from the desert itself.

It was the colour of Seth, god of chaos and death. Accordingly, outcasts were exiled to the desert. The desert was also the door to the underworld.

Chaos red was the opposite of pure white. Deathly red was the opposite of renewing green or black.

Simultaneously, red symbolised the life-giving function of blood and the life-supporting role of fire, and so was often used in the colour of protective amulets.



(source: Alistair Boddy-Evans)

Too sleepy to find a better image...

Osiris, from the Book of the Dead


16 comments:

Steliano Ponticos said...

spammity spam

Rebecca's sentence is one of the best I ever read too. And this plan for a marriage seems great.

I really liked reading the old egyptian words. Since I know the modern Egyptian dialect it was really fun seeing how the words have changed from back then to now, really interesting.

Like wahdj = green = now means glow
kemet has come mean red! but wine read, like bordeaux

Whats very strange is ancient egyptians had the sound j while modern egyptians don't say j at all they say g!

Olivia said...

Steli - What is the longest lunch you have ever had? Mine was of course in Italy and lasted 5 hours. I think there were 9 courses, but after the meat I stopped counting. It ended about two hours before dinner.
Bleurgh.

Is there a language you are not familiar with? Yoruba perhaps?

I will delete the spam.

Steliano Ponticos said...

olivia there are many languages i am not familiar with, all i know is 5 or 6 and the ones i really speak like i speak french or english are 4, en tous cas, je suis rouge maintenant :D

my longest meal ever was a 4 houre lunch at my amma's.

Jia Li said...

hey liv, skype working?

M. said...

A post after my Egyptophilia heart. :)

Red is a favorite color of the Chinese. (Please hold the jokes about Communism!) It's the color of prosperity, good luck, and happiness...whereas white is the color of death and mourning. Same thing with blue. Yellow is the color of royals, so back in the days of the emperors, lay people were forbidden from wearing yellow. Interesting how different cultures view colors so differently, eh?

Olivia said...

Ahhhhh le Steli rougissant.

Ahhhhhh and you called your grand-mere "amma"! Hehe +)

Jia Li - we are on Skype right now!

Mers - I like the way the Chinese use red in their lanterns and hanging silks! It's a wonderful colour.

I have heard about the use of white.

AND I saw the yellow royal robes of China in the Chinese Emperors exhibition at the Royal Academy.

There was a Dais with the huge throne surrounded by giant ceramic incense burners, and behind was a giant finely carved wood and lacquer screen.

Glass cases were full of gorgeous wonderful intricate items. I am trying to concentrate on my answer here, but I am also chatting with Jia Li on webcam and Skype!

M. said...

Was the exhibition permanent or on loan? Because that opens up another can of worms...

Ah yes, Skype. My Israeli friend tried to get me to use it but I just can't bring myself to. :)

Prerona said...

this was wonderful! thanks :) howve you been?

Olivia said...

Mers - it was on loan...why?

Oh do try Skype, it's wonderful to talk for free! You don't have to do webcam with it (I don't have one!)

Prerona - Yay, you're back online! I will go and check out your blog in a minute. Glad you liked this post :)

Olivia said...

Steli - look at today's quote:

Experience is never limited, and it is never complete; it is an immense sensibility, a kind of huge spider-web of the finest silken threads suspended in the chamber of consciousness, and catching every air-borne particle in its tissue.
Henry James
(1843-1916)

It's a lot like what I said about memory in the post below!

Anonymous said...

Yes it is like your comment. But this is the thing, I said I make a difference between learning and experience and between remembering. I don't like remembering, but experience is good.

steli whos too lazy to sign in

M. said...

Because if it's not on loan, just as with Egyptian antiquities, there's always controversy over whether imperialist powers took the exhibited articles by force or stealthily and whether they should be returned to the country of origin.

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