solar barque

The sun god who was the ultimate source of light, energy, and life. The first sunrise, when the sun emerged as a shining bird or golden child from dark watery chaos, was the most important event in Egyptian myth. Ra merged with the primeval form of the creator to make the cosmos and its laws. He ruled as King of the Gods, first on earth and later from the heavens. Ra was born to his mother the sky goddess each morning. He passed through many transformations before being absorbed back into her each evening. Alternatively, the progress of the sun was pictured as a voyage across the skies above and below the earth. Each night the divine crew of the solar barque had to overcome the forces of chaos so that Ra could revive the sleeping dead and renew the world.
—  Egyptian Mythology; A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses and Traditions of Ancient Egypt by Geraldine Pinch

Among other things, Hatshepsut, the woman who would be king (she gave the royal scribes all manner of headache, since “pharaoh” required the masculine form, but she was female, something along the lines of “Her Majesty, King Hatshepsut,” poor chickens), effected this lovely solar barque to be built (and thereafter commemorated in stone) (and much thereafter postally commemorated!) during her reign as pharaoh in the Eighteenth Dynasty, New Kingdom, Ancient Egypt.  Issued for the Congrès International de Navigation, held in Cairo in 1926, these stamps show a ship from Hatshepsut’s fleet, sailing to the Land of Punt for trade.  [The Land of Punt……well, it’s either along the Horn of Africa, or along the Arabian Peninsula, or it encompasses both, or it’s somewhere else altogether……]  [In the original relief, the water is populated by fishes so well-documented that their species are easily identified by any decent Nile/Red Sea inhabitant worth his or her reeds/salt.]  After her death, Hatshepsut’s name was erased from the official record, her temples were destroyed, and her successor (Thutmosis III) attempted to exact upon his stepmama the fate that all Ancient Egyptians feared and reviled above any other–to have one’s name forgotten.  Luckily, Thutmosis III (as in most things) wasn’t as efficient as he could have been and we still get to dream about Hatshepsut, “the first great woman in history of whom we are informed,” as Breasted used to say.

Stamp details:
Issued on: December 9, 1926
From: Cairo, Egypt
MC #109-111

kneel down and close your eyes, devotee
breathe in, breathe out, sink into yourself
now open your inner eyes
and find yourself in this private chamber
deep within the temple complex
grand Bubastis beside the Nile
worship place of Bast, The Fiery One
the only sound torches flickering on the walls
and the soft patter of paw-steps in the shadows
temple cats or the spirits of their kin
the air is heavy with the scent of incense
and on the walls carvings laid with gold and lapis dance in the torchlight
images of the Lady of the East at Her work
standing proud and fierce upon Ra’s solar barque
or kneeling with Her children all around
scenes of hunting fields and sunlit courtyards
of celebration and devotion to the Lady of Truth
and standing tall and regal before your bowed form
a statue of the Mother Cat Herself in polished stone and shining gold
taller than any human, older than a thousand lifetimes
in one hand She holds a sistrum and the other an ankh
tools of Her trade, protectress and guide
at Her feet burn candles and incense
and offerings lay all around
cloth and ribbon, perfume jars and precious stones
place your own offerings at Her feet
bow your head and open your heart
in this chamber you are safe and welcome
the Lady of the Flame fills you with love like the eternal sun
devotion like the heart of the fire
peace like the most delicate perfume
the Lady hears all
speak and She will answer

The solar barque was called the Boat of Millions because all the gods and all the souls of the blessed dead might be needed in its crew. The crew is sometimes referred to as rowing the solar barque, but this is never shown. Instead, a number if deities, often in the form of jackals or cobras, can be depicted towing the boat along. In some Underworld Books there are two solar barques, The Day Boat (Mandjet) and the Night Boat (Mesektet)…..The sun god can be shown alone in the Day Boat, but in the Night Boat other deities usually stand on deck ready to defend the vulnerable nocturnal form of the sun. The dangers included submerged sandbanks and attacks by hostile crocodiles, turtles, and snakes. The worst of these enemies was the monstrous chaos serpent /A/p/e/p/. Sometimes the solar barque was surrounded or followed by a whole fleet of small boats carrying various protective deities and emblems. The prow and stern posts of these boats terminate in crowns, snakes, or human and animal heads.
—  “Egyptian Mythology; A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt” by Geraldine Pinch

Ships on stamps!  Ancient ships on stamps!  And medieval ones, too!  In order: an Egyptian barque, a Phoenician ship, a Greek trireme, a Roman merchantman, the Viking Gokstad, a Prussian cog, a medieval holk, and a Genoese carrack.  Which of these pretty keels would your face like to cause a thousand to be launched by reason of?

Stamp details:
Issued on: January 25, 1965
From: Warsaw, Poland
MC #1562-1569