Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Chaotic Waters

Thanks to native Hausa, Luo, and Oromo speakers for helping with this project, especially John Oguto, Solomon Demissie, Wandera Salmon Owino, and the late Dr. Catherine Acholonu.

Alice C. Linsley

Genesis 1 describes when God began the work of creation. It uses the words tohu (formless or confused) and bohu (empty or void). The Hebrew phrase "formless and void" (Gen. 1: 2) is tohu wa-bohu and is of Nilotic origin. The word tohu in Isaiah 34:11 means "confused" so it appears that Genesis 1 refers to matter in a confused or chaotic state before God set things in order.

In ancient Nilotic mythology chaos preceded creation. This is reflected in the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians and Nubians, and is still found among Nilo-Saharan peoples such as the Gikuyu, the Masai, and the Luo.

"There was no sunlight... the whole land was in darkness." (Gikuyu/Kenya)

"In the beginning there was only the swirling watery chaos." (Egyptian)

The Egyptians personified the watery chaos and called it Tehom.  Tehom was the realm of the cosmic serpent who was south of Yebu (Elephantine Island), a shrine where the priests were said to hold back the chaos. In ancient mythology the serpent was trampled by the Ancient Immortal One.
The Ancient Man danced on the serpent, who still spewed poison from his eyes and hissed loudly in his anger, and he trampled down with his feet whatever head the serpent raised, subduing him calmly as if he were being worshipped with flowers. Kaliya, his umbrella of hoods shattered by the gay dance of death, his limbs broken, vomiting blood copiously from his mouths, remembered the Guru of all who move and are still, the Ancient Man, Narayana, and he surrendered to him in his heart.(Srimad Bhagavatam 10:6, from Andrew Wilson, Ed. World Scriptures, p. 449)
Genesis 3:15 states that the Seed of the Woman will trample the serpent. This is understood to be a Messianic reference and Christians believe it applies to Jesus.

The watery chaos known to the priests of Elephantine Island is likely a reference to the Mega White Nile and the Sudd through which it flows. The White Nile spreads out as it flows through the lower elevation Sudd so what little land has been prepared for cultivation invariably floods. The Sudd is a nearly impenetrable swamp, full of crocodiles, that covers an area the size of Florida. It hampers navigation and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Malaria is a big problem here.

However, in NIlotic mythology the watery chaos was overthrown by divine Wisdom, personified as Tehut. Tehut defeats Tehom, just as in Genesis 1, the the Divine Word subdues the chaotic water at the beginning of creation. It is not surprising that the oldest known moral code is the Law of Tehut. It is attributed to Menes, the first ruler to unite the peoples of the Upper and Lower Nile.

In the Egyptian concept of creation, the first dry land was a mound emerging from the cosmic waters. The mound was called Tatjenen, and is related to Tjenu, the name of Menés' kingdom in the Upper Nile. Tjenu is likely related to Tehenu (Thnw), a people living in the northern Nile valley of Lybia and Sudan. Tehenu rulers wore pointed beards and were referred to as pale-skinned and red-headed, like the rulers of Edom, to whom they are likely related. They also were related to the Nehesi (Nhsj) of the Upper Nile, who according to Cheikh Anta Diop were black or dark-skinned. These red and black Nilotes appear to be a social moeity, as were the red and black Nubians.

The Nilotic Luo call the chaotic water of creation the Dog Nam and they think of any large water system, such as Mega Chad or Lake Victoria, as a place where God is present. The inhabitants of the area of Lake Victoria call the place Nalubaale. The last letter le is a form of Re, a reference to the Creator. Many African names for the Creator have this ending: Ndebele (Zimbabwe); Murle (Ethiopia); Male (Ethiopia); Lele and Wele (Central Africa).

The Oromo of the Horn of Africa call the waters of creation Hora Wolabu, a reference to Horus, the "son" of the Creator. The Oromo are the Horomo, people of Horus. The H is silent and therefore was dropped in English spelling. Horo is said to be the founding father of the Oromo. Horo had two sons. His first born son was named Borana and his younger son was named Barentu. Borana means "those who face east" and Barentu means "those who face west."  In Luo, Horu' mo (horumo/orumo) means perfected, realized, finished, or completed.

The ancestors of the Oromo were cattle-herding Saharo-Nubians. They called the Creator Eebe and he was Waaq, meaning "God of the Heavens." The universe was held in balance by the love of a bull for a cow. The balance was maintained in the cradle of the bull's horns, and the bull stared forever at the cow tied to a pole in front of him. When the cow turned her eyes away from the bull, a physical shift resulted that caused natural disasters like floods.

According to the Oromo, Waaq separated the impregnated body of water into two parts: the water above called Bishaan Gubbaathe and the water below called Bishaan Goodaa. Likewise, we read in Genesis how God separated the waters above from the waters below (Gen. 1:6-8).

This serekh shows
Horus as a falcon
The waters above were viewed as the domain of the Creator. Having established order, the Creator sails his solar boat on the calm waters. The "Lord of All" declares, "I will sail aright in my barque; I am the Lord of the waters, crossing heaven." (Egyptian Coffin Texts, Spell 1,130) The solar boat imagery spread far and wide. In the image above of a bas-relief found at Angkor Wat in Cambodia Horus appears as a falcon perched on the mast of Ra's solar boat.

Horus was said to have the power to calm the winds and the waves. The Turin Canon describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as "the Followers of Horus" and these Pharaohs had a Horus name and an image of Horus at the top of their serekh. 

The Ancient of Days is said to ride the waters above. Perhaps this is the meaning of Daniel's vision, described in Daniel 7:13-14: 
I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.

And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Psalm 110, recognized as a Messianic reference, says: The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” It echoes an ancient tradition concerning Horus, the "son" of Ra. Consider how Horus, the archetype of Christ, describes himself in the Coffin Texts (passage 148):
I am Horus, the great Falcon upon the ramparts of the house of him of the hidden name. My flight has reached the horizon. I have passed by the gods of Nut. I have gone further than the gods of old. Even the most ancient bird could not equal my very first flight. I have removed my place beyond the powers of Set, the foe of my father Osiris. No other god could do what I have done. I have brought the ways of eternity to the twilight of the morning. I am unique in my flight. My wrath will be turned against the enemy of my father Osiris and I will put him beneath my feet in my name of ‘Red Cloak’. (Myth and Symbol in Ancient Egypt by R.T. Rundle Clark, p. 216)
In the works of Plato and Aristotle the words horos or horismos refer to landmarks, boundaries and categorical limits. The word horos is a reference to the celestial archetype of Horus who marked the cosmic boundaries and established the "kinds" (essences). 

He guarded the four directional points and was Lord over the currents and the winds. This was said to be the case with Jesus, the Son of God, according to the testimonies of Mark (4:35-41), Luke (8:22-25) and Matthew (8:23-27). All three describe a situation in which veteran fisherman are terrified and cry out to Jesus, saying, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" Mark states that Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the waves, saying simply, "Quiet! Be still!" Then all became calm. Jesus then said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"


J Eppinga said...

Noticing a couple of interesting things regarding words - these are probably nothing.

RE: "Tagjenen"

The Netherlandic peoples have a word that means about the same thing - Terp / Terpen, that refers to man-made mounds that were constructed in early Holland for the purpose controlling sea water. They would network the terps and then pump out water from the draws.

RE: "Waaq"

Reminds me of the Lakota word, 'Wakan Tanka', for The Great Spirit / Great Mystery. 'Waken' in the same language means powerful or sacred.

Alice C. Linsley said...

In the Dutch province of Friesland, an artificial dwelling hill is called terp. Might this be related to the name Antwerp?

The T was a prehistoric symbol, not a letter. It indicated what was raised up. The T symbol is found in many words like tumulu, which means mound or small hill, or tomb. The Proto-Indo-European roots tum- and teu- mean bulge and swell. The symbol is found in many English words: tumor, thumb, torch, thigh, etc.

J Eppinga said...

Hadn't thought of that.

The Antwerp Association of Building Archaeology and History has this to say:

"ca. 700: Earliest mention of the name ' Andoverpis ' in a written source , the Vita Eligii from the beginning of the eighth century ( possibly 700 ) . It purports the meaning of the name as an auto-antonym of, 'a country thrown against a bank.' This raised land can either be on the left or the right bank.

My Dutch is fairly rusty (niet goed). This is the best I could make out of the tangled mess that the online translator delivered. Dutch is rich with compound words, idiom, and strange grammar.

J Eppinga said...

Hmmm.... John Motley had a different theory: that the name is aan 't werp (at the warp, or thrown-ground). The 't is a contraction of 'het', the definite article.

Argh! I dunno. :)

Alice C. Linsley said...

The French word for Antwerp if Anvers which resembles Andoverpis. In think verpa was a Latin word for something erect, like a mound or seawall.

J Eppinga said...

RE: "verpa...Latin"

Well! That's a hard pill to swallow! :)

Interesting about the origins of the letter T. I wonder how many other letters this applies to (Y is obvious).

Alice C. Linsley said...

These symbols are prehistoric:

O - a solar image
X - a place of crossing; sometimes inside an O to reference the solar arc
Y - a solar cradle and the symbol of divine appointment by the sun's overshadowing
V - a symbol for valley, a fork, or for anything that spreads out

Alice C. Linsley said...

Jay, here is an important archaeological discovery of the T and Y shape amulets. The T shape amulets indicate veneration of the solar deity, the Creator. The Y shape amulets indicate divine protection, oversight and/or divine appointment.

DManA said...

Lots of T shaped monuments at Göbekli Tepe.

J Eppinga said...

So basically, if we have a primitive version of humankind - one that thinks about much more than what animals would concern themselves with; one that can't be content with Life being a hamster wheel... He would need someone to communicate with him with things he could understand, not so much alphabets and treatises that could be shelved with PhD theses. He would need a way to understand that God was working on a way off of the hamster wheel.

J Eppinga said...

Unfortunately, I am unable to access 'open-source' sites that exclusively cater to people who have published. A few years ago, I did a presentation for a professional development society, but one site deemed this not academic enough. So, I'm just a Joe in the Private Sector, pretty much. :)

Unknown said...

I notice the Agikuyu/Kikuyu of Kenya, a Bantu language group as opposed to a Nilo-Saharan, is mentioned. But I presume, you are referring to the larger land occupation and not language groups. Thanks for appreciating my little, infrequent contributions.

Alice C. Linsley said...

That is correct, John.

The Kikuyu have origin and creation stories that interest me. They place their first parents, Kikuyu and Mumbi, on a ridge north of Muranga, a town south of Nyeri in Kenya. One can visit the site. A sky-blue gate marks the entrance to Mukurwe Wa Nyagathanga — the Tree of Gathanga. Inside the gate are two mud huts, one for Kikuyu and one for Mumbi. The site looks toward the cloud-shrouded Mount Kenya (Mount Kirinyaga). To the Kikuyu, Mount Kenya is the seat of God, who they call Ngai. Ngai created Kikuyu and told him: “Build your homestead where the fig trees grow." This is why many believe that the Tree of Life was a fig tree. Genesis does not say what kind of fruit was produced by the Tree of Life, but the fig tree plays a significant role in revealing Jesus as the Son of God in Mark 11, Matthew 21 and Luke 13.

You have been very helpful with this on-going research. Thank you!

Another common theme is the power of the divine word to generate life. I believe this is a Luo saying: Wach en gi teko. It means something like: "a word has power." The concept of a word have generative power is evident in Genesis 1.

"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. (Gen. 1:1-4) Also the Ruach went forth from the mouth of the Creator." And God said... And God said... is repeated throughout the Genesis 1 narrative.

The Bambara bards of Uganda recite this praise of the power of the divine Word:

The Word is total:
it cuts, excoriates
forms, modulates
perturbs, maddens
cures or directly kills
amplifies or reduces
According to intention
It excites or calms souls.

Please correct me if I am wrong about this: A Luo reference to God is Nya-sa-ye, which is similar to I am Who I am, but the some Luos call the Creator Lacwec, and others call the Creator Jachwech. It seems to me that Jachwech is a variant of Yahweh. What do you think?

Unknown said...

To mould with clay is CHWEYO. Jachwech, as the Luo sometimes venerate God, is Creator, the one who moulds. Hence God's creation is CHWECH NYASAYE. YAHWEH and JACHWECH might be graphically close but sound very different. JACHWECH will sound like JAR-CHOO-WAY-CHOO. To me, Luo exclamation of YAHWAH whenever they are saddened or are in shock could have been an excalamation to Yahweh. Who knows?

Alice C. Linsley said...

That makes sense to me, John. Linguistically, there is an obvious relation between Chweyo and Chwech. The share the same triliteral root - chw. Thanks for that information.

Unknown said...

Just reading old posts

Alice C. Linsley said...

John, so glad to hear from you. We could benefit from your knowledge at the Facebook group The Bible and Anthropology.