Susan Brind Morrow Claims Egyptologists Have Completely Misunderstood the Pyramid Texts
On Facebook this week Graham Hancock praised a new book called The Dawning Moon of the Mind for challenging the academic consensus on Egyptian religious development by revealing a sophisticated philosophy behind the ancient Pyramid Texts. I don’t think anyone ever doubted that the Pyramid Texts reflect sophisticated religious development, but according to author Susan Brind Morrow, a poet from upstate New York who studied Egyptology in college and once worked in archaeology, Egyptologists understand the Pyramid Texts all wrong.
Morrow claims that Egyptologists wrongly view the Pyramid Texts as being mythological in nature and devoted to aiding the Pharaoh in the afterlife. She claims that Egyptologists view the Egyptians as primitive and superstitious and are too consumed with “Western” views to truly understand their poetry and real meaning. Instead, she believes that by correctly retranslating the texts she can reveal that they are actually a description of the stars, an account of natural phenomena, and the origin point for many later faith traditions.
“These are not magic spells at all,” Morrow said in a Huffington Post interview. “These are poetic verses constructed just like poetry today, sophisticated and filled with word play and puns.”
To illustrate how different Morrow’s translation is from previous versions, here is Utterance 313 (or 218 in more recent numbering) from Unis’s Pyramid Texts in the 1952 translation of Samuel A. B. Mercer at top, the 2005 translation of James P. Allen in the middle, and Morrow on the bottom. (Note that Mercer gave a generic name, N., in place of Unis’s specific name.)
The next passage, Utterance 314 (or Allen’s 219), traditionally translated as referring to an actual ox, she reads as a description of the constellation Taurus.
As you can see, Morrow has decided that the gods are not actually gods because she has become convinced that the Egyptians were not originally polytheist idolaters, and therefore the gods were originally the forces of nature. Consequently, she has turned the gods into stars, under her belief that the sky was the first object of worship.
There is no evidence that the Egyptians recognized modern constellations in the time of Unas, and it’s strange that Morrow’s view of Egyptian religion is very similar to what the medieval Arabs imagined ancient Egyptian religion to be like. For example, here is the Akhbar al-zaman speaking of the treasures of the pyramids placed within them by Surid, the king sometimes identified as a mythologized version of Khufu:
Into the eastern pyramid, he transported the idols of the stars, representations of the heavens, wonders built by his ancestors, incense to offer to the idols, books containing the history of ancient Egypt, an account of the lives of the kings and the dates of all the events that had transpired, still other books comprising a proclamation of all that would happen in Egypt until the end of time, with a description of the paths of the fixed stars and their influence at every moment. (my trans.)
This is more or less Morrow’s vision of the Pyramid Texts, and it’s no surprise that other scholars who work professionally on the texts consider her version to be amateurish and false.
“It is a translator’s job to be as faithful to the original as possible while using words and constructions that make sense to modern readers. Ms. Morrow has not done that,” Egyptologist and Pyramid Texts translator James P. Allen told the Huffington Post. “Her ‘translation’ is basically a poet’s impression of what she thinks the texts should say, and not a reflection of what they actually say.”
After skimming through her translation and comparing it to those of other translators, I have a feeling that Allen is right, despite Morrow’s claims that we shouldn’t see the texts as mysterious or archaic but as vivid depictions of nature. However, Morrow may have a point that too literal a translation may miss some of the more subtle aspects of the texts, or even shortchange the cosmic layer of meaning in the Pyramid Texts. Since I cannot read hieroglyphics, I have no way to judge the specific words translated, but I find it difficult to think that all previous translators misunderstood most of the nouns in the texts.
2/26/2016 11:20:17 am
"Who studied Eqyptology in college and once worked in Archaelogy" Translation, she took one or two entry level classes and went out on a dig, where she spent her time, under the supervision of a real Archaelogist, brushing away sand from pottery shards.
1/28/2017 06:29:48 pm
First these people you referred to as authorities on Black African Spirituality the Egyptologist have been stealing, lying and still are insisting on perpetrating the history of Africa as their own or some other Asiatic. Susan Morrow is correct in her interpretation according to Ancient Classical African Spirituality there is only one Creator Atum, God is an European construct much too limited to express African Spirituality. The Ntchr is the "ALL" or the Creator and the Ntchru are the aspects or qualities of the Ntchr. Which is energy. There are no Gods or Goddesses. First you either don't know the correct words or refuse to address them properly. Unfortunately Europeans in their limitate understanding are trying to Interpret Classical African Spirituality looking at what they stole out of Africa through they limited socio-cultural perspective, They lied and said that the slaves built the pyramids wrong. Because enslavement was their social construct, They said that Khafra built the Sphinx. The Sphinx is a Greek mythological creature that has nothing to do with Heru em Akhety. You need to put down those fairy tale books and catch up. Now since we have scientists from other disciplines researching this great African culture it has been proven by Dr. Robert Schoch that Heru em Akhety is at least 10,000 years old at the end of the last ice age during the Mousterian Pluvial. I was told in a western civilization class, that had nothing to do with the White Western Asiatics that migrated into Europe off the Steppe lets just get that fact out the way, that the Nubians copied from the Kemetyu the Black Africans. Now it has been proven from research in the Nabta Playa region that they had the same spiritually of the people in Kemet, were essentially the same people and were much older by thousands of years than the Kemetyu living in Kemet. We can go on and on with the lies, incompetency and perpetration of your western education. The Kemetyu studied the cosmology and had an excellent understanding of the universe, when Europe thought the world was FLAT and now you want to interpret a civilization that was so advanced they were living in temples and houses and your kings were still living
8/24/2017 11:34:48 pm
It's hilariously hypocritical how you Kemetists love to disparage Western Egyptologists! You talk about ancient Egyptian dieties, concepts, etc. using the very English transliterations REDISCOVERED BY WESTERN EGYPTOLOGISTS! The fact is nobody would know shit about "Kemet" if it weren't for those curious Europeans who started digging around in Egypt. Period. Modern Egyptians sure didn't know shit about ancient Egypt! You all act like Europeans learning about ancient Egypt is cultural appropriation, when in fact it's cultural resuscitation. Seriously, tell me what's worse: 200 years of Western Egyptologists who have a deep interest in the ancient culture, or THOUSANDS of years of Egyptians letting their native culture literally crumble and get buried under. All you Kemetists would be Muslims if it weren't for Egyptologists!
3/13/2019 11:05:36 am
pam...i agree with you regarding Morrow's book The Dawning of Moon of the Mind...i found the initial review for this book in the magazine "KMT"......(which is itself a wonderful journalistic quarterly magazine completely about Kemet)....though i have studied Kemet for decades....i am not an expert...but Morrow's book opens an entirely new world for me.
4/8/2018 01:13:35 pm
I support Morrow's translation and interpretation of The Pyramid Texts. It's brilliant precisely because it refines and overturns uninspired prior translations which contained their own biases.
2/26/2016 12:10:54 pm
Why, then, would the Pharaohs choose to be buried with astronomy texts? No context for that, that I can see.
2/27/2016 10:11:51 am
Just a little light reading for the afterlife?
1/28/2017 07:18:33 pm
Because they understood Cosmology, and looked to the Orion Belt as the place they would travel to in the afterlife. I'm wondering do you have any understanding of Kemet or Classical African Spirituality. Maybe you should catch up on recent research being done by real scientists. Then you won't seem so confused.
2/26/2016 12:32:45 pm
Oh well, the academic consensus is wrong about the dating of the gospels. That's a fact.
2/26/2016 01:02:16 pm
This almost sounds like it's referencing conception and birth.
2/27/2016 10:01:36 am
From what I understand of the ancient Egyptian belief system, that's probably not that far off. Granted, I'm not an expert, but what little I do know really seems to indicate that they were very big on cycles of renewal--the sun "died" every evening and was "reborn" every morning, for example--so I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't an element of "you're being reborn into the afterlife" going on.
1/28/2017 07:20:18 pm
You are much closer to the truth
2/26/2016 01:45:53 pm
Season 3 of Forbidden History has kicked off and the first episode is about the claim that the Ark of the Covenant is in Ethiopia, concluding it was unlikely - taking 45 minutes to cover what could be gathered in 45 seconds.
2/26/2016 03:12:37 pm
Season 3 episode 6 is billed as "In Search of the real King Arthur" so it looks like it will be a vehicle for the latest book by Graham Phillips.
2/28/2016 01:32:50 pm
The Ark is in Ethipia, Bob Cornuke is right on that.
2/26/2016 02:02:20 pm
Sounds like she learned how to translate Egyptian from the Mormons.
1/28/2017 07:22:01 pm
That was a totally IGNORANT comment, but I expect no more after reading other people's post.
2/26/2016 02:05:06 pm
How do you get from "Baboon's Penis" to "Sword of Orion"? That seems to be a stretch in any language, even hieroglyphs.
2/27/2016 05:32:36 am
"How do you get from "Baboon's Penis" to "Sword of Orion"? That seems to be a stretch in any language"
2/27/2016 10:11:24 am
Ken, I think the problem is that non-archeologist's lack of research, not the field of Egyptology itself, because it hasn't been THAT long since the last "THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING!" discovery in Egyptology, which if I'm actually up to date (and I admit I may not be) was the remains of a port town built for the transport of stone to Khufu's pyramid, along with the diary of a stonemason? And before that, the builder's town for said pyramid.
1/28/2017 08:53:17 pm
If the pseudo egyptologist found all that why haven't they been able to reproduce the architecture of building the pyramid. They surely have tried. Egyptology is a JOKE! ! ! ! Just like the movie The Gods of Egypt.
2/26/2016 02:28:28 pm
Writing in 1945, René Guénon in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, p. 131.
2/26/2016 02:54:24 pm
"Her ‘translation’ is basically a poet’s impression of what she thinks the texts should say, and not a reflection of what they actually say."
1/28/2017 07:38:29 pm
Maybe you would be smart to question the interpretation of the pseudo Egyptologist "Baboon Penis"sounds like bull to me.
2/26/2016 09:01:36 pm
Does she actually claim to have translated the Pyramid texts? If so did she translate from the Hieroglyphics or did she accomplish and English-to-English translation, merely twisting the work of actual linguists who have studied Ancient Egyptian into what she wants it to mean?
1/28/2017 08:44:22 pm
Don't know the correct word, let me help you. It isn't hieroglyphs the correct word is the Mdw Ntchr or the "ALL" or the "CREATOR OF ALL" The Ntchru are not gods and goddess, because of your limited Western or Asiatic concept you are trying to interpret this through your Western socio-cultural mind set. The Ntchru are aspects of the Ntchr or Atum.
8/24/2017 11:46:06 pm
It's like you read one Barnes and Noble book on "Kemet" and you think you've got it all figured out! LOL It's so embarrassing how little you seem to know about actual Egyptology... can you even read hieroglyphs, or do you just rely on the English transliterations the Egyptologists you seem to hate have provided for you? LOL
2/27/2016 09:54:10 am
I'm not sure that we can take the PT less literally.
2/27/2016 09:56:38 am
No, we interpret the texts literally within the context of the time they were written,
2/27/2016 10:00:33 am
Just like we interpret the writings of Scott Wolter literally, confidently knowing that they are really fairy tales.
2/27/2016 12:46:35 pm
So if the pyramid builders said "in this blast of heat where the gods scoop water," then we are to assume that heat contains water where imaginary consciousnesses can scoop it?
2/28/2016 01:36:41 pm
Is it the general consensus that the Egyptians didn't start using the modern Constelations till after Alexander? I know the Zodiac of Dendre is from the Potlemaic period.
2/29/2016 01:07:43 am
Yay! Everyone from Columbia County gets to be an Egyptian authority! I'm phoning Hawass RIGHT NOW and setting things straight.
2/29/2016 11:51:29 am
1/28/2017 09:14:41 pm
Thank you so much for your work, You are doing a great job. The Mdw Ntchr has to be interpreted through an African perspective if the Egyptologist are going to get it right. Otherwise, they will continue to be proven wrong by other scientist. Can't wait to read your book.
9/12/2020 01:39:48 pm
If this is an example of Black scholarship, this is pathetic.
3/7/2016 12:43:24 pm
Jeremy Naydler ( Shamanic Wisdom of the Pyramid Texts) is worth reading on the subjec. He also takes a non traditional view of the texts.
9/12/2020 05:13:49 pm
I have read Ms. Morrow's translation....I am not a scholarly egyptologist/hieroglyph expert....at best an "armchair" reader. I read Ms. Morrow's translation because it took me, through her translation, to a time lost. There's is no harm using one's imagination. It is fortunate that all the share rhetoric regarding Una's tomb.....regardless of origin..may one day fall together and the meaning of the hieroglyphs in the tomb will finally speak.
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