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Author Topic: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple  (Read 107 times)

Darkhawk

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The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« on: September 11, 2017, 09:09:14 pm »
(Okay, please note: this is all from memory, because I can't get at my books while I'm trying to put the toddle to sleep.  So the details will be thingy.)

All right, so:  the concept of the Egyptian temple is that it is basically a magical model of the universe.  Doing the rituals in the temple was doing them in the universe, and so on.  And that happens in all kinds of interesting ways.

The temple evolved out of a fortress, by the way.  Which comes in with the martial bits of theology about the struggle against the uncreating forces.  Every temple is a castle fortification to hold the line against the armies of annihilation.

SO.

First of all - and when I learned this it was when I fell in love with temple architecture - the major walls are dug with deep foundations.  Basically, they could only build temples on the plains, because those foundations needed to be dug deep enough that the trenches reached groundwater.  Because the cosmos is rooted in the Nun, so the foundation walls needed to touch the Nun, which has as a material-side manifestation ... the groundwater!

(Of course letting things in from the well of potential is tricky so you put a layer of pure sand down on top of that before you build, to make sure it's properly filtered.  Anyway.)

(I don't remember the foundation stone sacrifices except to note that there often were some.)

SO.

Consider your outermost wall.  Now that sucker was built sort of like this:
__---__---__---__---__
because if the temple is a microcosm, the outer wall of its existence is the Nun, which is made of water.

Further, some of the decorations on the outer walls were hunting motifs, smiting-of-prisoners motifs and similar things, because the hunts - which ventured out into the Red Land - were models of battle against the dangerous and liminal creatures of the Beyond, and smiting enemies of the state was smiting enemies of reality and all that good stuff.  (I believe in later periods you get more variety with places to put votive offerings and some such, but I'm hazy about change over time.)

All this stuff is built carefully aligned with the stars.  (There's some stuff about how all the temples were perfectly aligned until the precession of the Earth's axis moved the stars too much, and then nobody remembered why it worked anymore so things started getting weird.  Problems of having The Way It's Done and not keeping track of Why It's Done That Way.  Take that as a useful reconstruction metaphor please.)  Because of course this model universe has to be lined up with the real one to be maximally effective.  (Remember that one of the traits of ma'at is effectiveness.)

Inside the walls is of course the universe.  Or at least the abstracted parts of it that are needed to run the temple proper.  Storehouses, the sacred pond for doing ritual ablutions in, slaughterhouses, and so on.  Some temples had semipublic areas where people could come into the model universe and leave votives; others partially opened for particular festivals.

So the temple building proper is the centre of the universe.  It's set up as a sort of gateway bringing the seen and unseen worlds into union, so that the god at the center of the center is situated at the hinge point.  The power of the god flows out from that point, and is gradually integrated out into the world.  (In addition to being a fortress, the temple itself was the body of a god, and was treated with the ritual Opening of the Mouth like an open icon.)  Part of all the transitory layers is getting that potency properly attenuated so that it can flow into the world without being entirely raw and too much to handle.  (My interpretation, but I think it's sound.)

The thing about the temple is that it's not just a physical gateway, it is magically structured as time travel.  That place at the heart of the temple is not just a physical center, but it holds Zep Tepi, the Big Bang.  That's where the god sits.

So when you walk into an Egyptian temple, you're walking back in time.  That hypostyle hall?  Each of those columns is carved and painted to be a bundle of papyrus, a pillar of marsh flowers twined together, because this is the benben mound, the hillock that emerged from the Nun.  The floor slopes up; the ceiling comes down; as you go in deeper reality contracts, until you eventually reach the originating point, with the kar-shrine containing the image of the god.

The more you go in, the more critical purity becomes.  At the First Moment, everything was pure, was aligned, after all.  Everything can reach back to the first moment.  But if you track muck back in to the magically constructed portal to Zep Tepi itself?  That would have blowback.  Which is one of the reasons only the seniormost priests attended in the inner sanctum, and only brought in things that had been thoroughly treated by the Wabu, whose duties were purification.

Do Not Drop Your Shit In The Big Bang.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Yei

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Re: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2017, 03:20:25 am »
(Okay, please note: this is all from memory, because I can't get at my books while I'm trying to put the toddle to sleep.  So the details will be thingy.)

All right, so:  the concept of the Egyptian temple is that it is basically a magical model of the universe.  Doing the rituals in the temple was doing them in the universe, and so on.  And that happens in all kinds of interesting ways.

The temple evolved out of a fortress, by the way.  Which comes in with the martial bits of theology about the struggle against the uncreating forces.  Every temple is a castle fortification to hold the line against the armies of annihilation.

SO.

First of all - and when I learned this it was when I fell in love with temple architecture - the major walls are dug with deep foundations.  Basically, they could only build temples on the plains, because those foundations needed to be dug deep enough that the trenches reached groundwater.  Because the cosmos is rooted in the Nun, so the foundation walls needed to touch the Nun, which has as a material-side manifestation ... the groundwater!

(Of course letting things in from the well of potential is tricky so you put a layer of pure sand down on top of that before you build, to make sure it's properly filtered.  Anyway.)

(I don't remember the foundation stone sacrifices except to note that there often were some.)

SO.

Consider your outermost wall.  Now that sucker was built sort of like this:
__---__---__---__---__
because if the temple is a microcosm, the outer wall of its existence is the Nun, which is made of water.

Further, some of the decorations on the outer walls were hunting motifs, smiting-of-prisoners motifs and similar things, because the hunts - which ventured out into the Red Land - were models of battle against the dangerous and liminal creatures of the Beyond, and smiting enemies of the state was smiting enemies of reality and all that good stuff.  (I believe in later periods you get more variety with places to put votive offerings and some such, but I'm hazy about change over time.)

All this stuff is built carefully aligned with the stars.  (There's some stuff about how all the temples were perfectly aligned until the precession of the Earth's axis moved the stars too much, and then nobody remembered why it worked anymore so things started getting weird.  Problems of having The Way It's Done and not keeping track of Why It's Done That Way.  Take that as a useful reconstruction metaphor please.)  Because of course this model universe has to be lined up with the real one to be maximally effective.  (Remember that one of the traits of ma'at is effectiveness.)

Inside the walls is of course the universe.  Or at least the abstracted parts of it that are needed to run the temple proper.  Storehouses, the sacred pond for doing ritual ablutions in, slaughterhouses, and so on.  Some temples had semipublic areas where people could come into the model universe and leave votives; others partially opened for particular festivals.

So the temple building proper is the centre of the universe.  It's set up as a sort of gateway bringing the seen and unseen worlds into union, so that the god at the center of the center is situated at the hinge point.  The power of the god flows out from that point, and is gradually integrated out into the world.  (In addition to being a fortress, the temple itself was the body of a god, and was treated with the ritual Opening of the Mouth like an open icon.)  Part of all the transitory layers is getting that potency properly attenuated so that it can flow into the world without being entirely raw and too much to handle.  (My interpretation, but I think it's sound.)

The thing about the temple is that it's not just a physical gateway, it is magically structured as time travel.  That place at the heart of the temple is not just a physical center, but it holds Zep Tepi, the Big Bang.  That's where the god sits.

So when you walk into an Egyptian temple, you're walking back in time.  That hypostyle hall?  Each of those columns is carved and painted to be a bundle of papyrus, a pillar of marsh flowers twined together, because this is the benben mound, the hillock that emerged from the Nun.  The floor slopes up; the ceiling comes down; as you go in deeper reality contracts, until you eventually reach the originating point, with the kar-shrine containing the image of the god.

The more you go in, the more critical purity becomes.  At the First Moment, everything was pure, was aligned, after all.  Everything can reach back to the first moment.  But if you track muck back in to the magically constructed portal to Zep Tepi itself?  That would have blowback.  Which is one of the reasons only the seniormost priests attended in the inner sanctum, and only brought in things that had been thoroughly treated by the Wabu, whose duties were purification.

Do Not Drop Your Shit In The Big Bang.

I'm stunned at how different Egyptian temples are to Mesoamerican ones. Not that I'm an expert, but even at a cursory glance they are very different. Unlike these fortress temples, Mesoamerican temples were almost always placed on a pyramid base. The Pyramid represents mountains, sometimes specific ones from both mythology and real places. Mountains were thought of as repositories for water, which was sent out as clouds to fertilise the earth. The Templo Mayor represented both Coatepec, where Huitzilopochtli was born, and Tonacatepetl, the sustenance mountain, where the worlds' seeds were kept. Some pyramids, such as the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan and the Castillo at Chi'chen Itza were built over caves and a river respectively. This highlights an important theological connotation of the Temple-Pyramid. Underground water and caves were associated with the underworld, while the sky was the heavens. A pyramid linked both of them to the surface world, linking the different realms of existence together. Unlike the Egyptian Temple, which blocked outer realms, the Mesoamerican Temple combined it with this world. The pyramids themselves were imbued with offerings, which were set into the foundations, and expanded over time as layers were imposed upon older layers.

The 'shrines' themselves were relatively small. Though they were often made of stone, they were far from palaces (although many had elaborate roof combs, especially Maya temples). In general, they were just houses, where the gods ixiptla (idol) resided with some offerings. I think this is because these temples were just where the gods resided. The Nahuatl word for temple, Teocalli, literally means 'god house.' Definitely not fortresses. They were not places to conduct major rituals. Instead, worship was a public activity, that mostly occurred outside, under the sky. In fact, that was something that initially disadvantaged Christianity. Churches were contained, cloistered places that Central Mexican's did not like, as it seemed to betray the important community focus inherent in Mesoamerican religion. Early preachers could only win converts when they brought their religion into the open.

I think it hints at a very different cultural mindset in comparison to Ancient Egypt, despite a superficial similarity between pyramids. I think that a comparison between the two could be very interesting, but I don't know enough about Khemetic culture to be sure.

Sobekemiti

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Re: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2017, 09:07:21 am »
(Okay, please note: this is all from memory, because I can't get at my books while I'm trying to put the toddle to sleep.  So the details will be thingy.)

All right, so:  the concept of the Egyptian temple is that it is basically a magical model of the universe.  Doing the rituals in the temple was doing them in the universe, and so on.  And that happens in all kinds of interesting ways.

The temple evolved out of a fortress, by the way.  Which comes in with the martial bits of theology about the struggle against the uncreating forces.  Every temple is a castle fortification to hold the line against the armies of annihilation.

SO.

First of all - and when I learned this it was when I fell in love with temple architecture - the major walls are dug with deep foundations.  Basically, they could only build temples on the plains, because those foundations needed to be dug deep enough that the trenches reached groundwater.  Because the cosmos is rooted in the Nun, so the foundation walls needed to touch the Nun, which has as a material-side manifestation ... the groundwater!

(Of course letting things in from the well of potential is tricky so you put a layer of pure sand down on top of that before you build, to make sure it's properly filtered.  Anyway.)

(I don't remember the foundation stone sacrifices except to note that there often were some.)

SO.

Consider your outermost wall.  Now that sucker was built sort of like this:
__---__---__---__---__
because if the temple is a microcosm, the outer wall of its existence is the Nun, which is made of water.

Further, some of the decorations on the outer walls were hunting motifs, smiting-of-prisoners motifs and similar things, because the hunts - which ventured out into the Red Land - were models of battle against the dangerous and liminal creatures of the Beyond, and smiting enemies of the state was smiting enemies of reality and all that good stuff.  (I believe in later periods you get more variety with places to put votive offerings and some such, but I'm hazy about change over time.)

All this stuff is built carefully aligned with the stars.  (There's some stuff about how all the temples were perfectly aligned until the precession of the Earth's axis moved the stars too much, and then nobody remembered why it worked anymore so things started getting weird.  Problems of having The Way It's Done and not keeping track of Why It's Done That Way.  Take that as a useful reconstruction metaphor please.)  Because of course this model universe has to be lined up with the real one to be maximally effective.  (Remember that one of the traits of ma'at is effectiveness.)

Inside the walls is of course the universe.  Or at least the abstracted parts of it that are needed to run the temple proper.  Storehouses, the sacred pond for doing ritual ablutions in, slaughterhouses, and so on.  Some temples had semipublic areas where people could come into the model universe and leave votives; others partially opened for particular festivals.

So the temple building proper is the centre of the universe.  It's set up as a sort of gateway bringing the seen and unseen worlds into union, so that the god at the center of the center is situated at the hinge point.  The power of the god flows out from that point, and is gradually integrated out into the world.  (In addition to being a fortress, the temple itself was the body of a god, and was treated with the ritual Opening of the Mouth like an open icon.)  Part of all the transitory layers is getting that potency properly attenuated so that it can flow into the world without being entirely raw and too much to handle.  (My interpretation, but I think it's sound.)

The thing about the temple is that it's not just a physical gateway, it is magically structured as time travel.  That place at the heart of the temple is not just a physical center, but it holds Zep Tepi, the Big Bang.  That's where the god sits.

So when you walk into an Egyptian temple, you're walking back in time.  That hypostyle hall?  Each of those columns is carved and painted to be a bundle of papyrus, a pillar of marsh flowers twined together, because this is the benben mound, the hillock that emerged from the Nun.  The floor slopes up; the ceiling comes down; as you go in deeper reality contracts, until you eventually reach the originating point, with the kar-shrine containing the image of the god.

The more you go in, the more critical purity becomes.  At the First Moment, everything was pure, was aligned, after all.  Everything can reach back to the first moment.  But if you track muck back in to the magically constructed portal to Zep Tepi itself?  That would have blowback.  Which is one of the reasons only the seniormost priests attended in the inner sanctum, and only brought in things that had been thoroughly treated by the Wabu, whose duties were purification.

Do Not Drop Your Shit In The Big Bang.

Oh, that's cool. I've looked into this recently for my own novel research. I knew about the wavey walls, but not about the deep trenches connecting to the groundwater, and therefore the Nun. That makes a lot of sense. Now I'm pondering what I might need to change to make the temple structures there more accurate. And what you might need if you had to leave your temple and go portable. Hmm. I will go and do more research. I have a lot of Thinky Thoughts now.
Sobekemiti Isetemsaf | Queer Polytheist and Sobek Devotee | My pronouns are xe/hir/xem
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Darkhawk

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Re: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2017, 09:16:47 am »
The Pyramid represents mountains, sometimes specific ones from both mythology and real places. Mountains were thought of as repositories for water, which was sent out as clouds to fertilise the earth. The Templo Mayor represented both Coatepec, where Huitzilopochtli was born, and Tonacatepetl, the sustenance mountain, where the worlds' seeds were kept. Some pyramids, such as the Pyramid of the Sun at Teotihuacan and the Castillo at Chi'chen Itza were built over caves and a river respectively. This highlights an important theological connotation of the Temple-Pyramid. Underground water and caves were associated with the underworld, while the sky was the heavens. A pyramid linked both of them to the surface world, linking the different realms of existence together.

Yeah, the Egyptian pyramid is ... it has some similarities, but?  It's a representation of the first mound of earth that emerged from the primordial oceans.  So you get that in pyramids proper, and you get it on the tips of obelisks, and you get it in the slopey floor inside the temples.
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Darkhawk

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Re: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« Reply #4 on: September 12, 2017, 09:17:48 am »
Oh, that's cool. I've looked into this recently for my own novel research.

Most of the details there are from Shafer et. al.'s Temples of Ancient Egypt:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/962182.Temples_of_Ancient_Egypt?ac=1&from_search=true
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

Sobekemiti

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Re: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2017, 09:58:33 am »
Most of the details there are from Shafer et. al.'s Temples of Ancient Egypt:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/962182.Temples_of_Ancient_Egypt?ac=1&from_search=true

Oh, yeah, I keep procrastinating on getting that book. I might need to change that. It's been on my Amazon wishlist for four years now. XD
Sobekemiti Isetemsaf | Queer Polytheist and Sobek Devotee | My pronouns are xe/hir/xem
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Yei

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Re: The Magical Architecture of an Egyptian Temple
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2017, 06:23:15 pm »
Yeah, the Egyptian pyramid is ... it has some similarities, but?  It's a representation of the first mound of earth that emerged from the primordial oceans.  So you get that in pyramids proper, and you get it on the tips of obelisks, and you get it in the slopey floor inside the temples.

Yeah, I think the Mesoamerican pyramid is very different. Besides the obvious physical and artistic differences, pyramids did not represent the whole earth, just mountains.

For Nahua people, the earth was actually the ridged back of Cipactli, a giant crocodile monster that was subdued by Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl.

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