To Set of the shifting desert sands, I offer my praise. Thundering son of the earth and the starry sky, beloved of Nephthys who soothes the sorrowing, defender of Ra on the bright sun-barque, you stand at the bow, ever ready, ever able, smiter of the serpent, battler of your brother, lord of the red lands and of the oasis, strong of arm and strong of resolve, I honor you. Great is your mettle, great is your might, O Set who sends the storm, whose power is of the will, whose being is of necessity: yours are the days of desperation, yours the times of transformation. Shaker of the skies, O Set of many guises, Set of many tales, to you do we turn for strength, in you do we seek our survival–hail to you, O god!
The sun god Re with the crew of his sun barque defends the cosmos against Ap/opis. Particularly at the critical moments or places of sunrise and sunset, on the borders of cosmos and chaos, is the conflict represented in the coordination of space and time. Osiris is enthroned in the underworld, but Re journeys continually…Sometimes Re is shown alone in it, but often various other gods also appear as members of the crew.
These gods have a particular relationship with Re. As occupants of the ship, each represents an aspect of Re himself. It is clear that ‘Hw’ and 'St3’, 'M3’t’ and 'Hk3’ are hypostases of the sun-god, his authoritative word and insight, his justice and magic power. It is interesting that gods whom egyptologists do not usually regard as personifications of concepts, seem to be aspects of Re when they occupy a place in the sun barque. In his very thorough monograph on Thoth, Boylan remarks that in the solar barque this god represents the businesslike and efficient character of Re’s rule. The problems of unity and plurality, monotheism and polytheism, can not be worked out here. E. Otto has drawn attention to an interesting parallel in the anthropomorphic field: in a tomb of the 18th dynasty offerings were not only found addressed to the dead man or to his Ka, as usual, but the unity was extended to a more detailed plurality consisting of name, Ka, altar, tomb, fate, lifetime, Meskhenet, Renenet, Khnum, Ba, Akh, body, shadow, and “all his forms”. Just as the human manner of being after death has many aspects relating to continued individual existence, so also the manner of being of Re, the lord of the universe, can apparently be specified in various gods or be more precisely qualified by them.
Ancient Egyptian pectoral, depicting a scarab (representing the sun god) on the sun barque, with baboons adoring it on either side. Artist unknown; between 1292 and 1070 BCE (New Kingdom, “Ramesside Period” [19th or 20th Dynasty]). Now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore. Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.
To Wepwawet, Opener of the Ways, I offer my praise. O great god who stands at the fore of the sun-barque, watchful and wary one, first to set foot on hostile ground, first to go forth into battle, warder of the standard-bearer, companion of kings, bearer of the cudgel and the shaft, piercer of flesh, crusher of bone, you walk with the seeker and the wanderer, you follow the unseen path, you unlatch the hidden door. Well honored you were in Asyut, city of wolves, O Wepwawet of the keen eye and the sharp tooth; well known you are by those who seize the gifts of life, the joy and the sorrow, the flood and the drought, the chance firmly taken, the risk understood. Yours are those who search, within and without; yours are those who strive and fail, who strive and succeed, who look beyond the garden wall into the wilderness beyond. Teach me to stand firm-rooted, to bend with the wind; grant to me your wisdom and your grace.