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In Your Name of Sarcophagus:

The Name Formula in the Pyramid Texts

Jennifer Hellum


The name formula (in your name of) in Egyptian religious literature is quite common and
is found from the Fourth Dynasty to the Thirtieth Dynasty. A consistent feature in the formula is
the application of paronomasia. In this context and in the context of religious literature gener-
ally, paronomasia is used as a means of aligning ones self with the divine. Other features of the
name formula, such as its essentially binary structure and the types of names given, also work to
promote this divine connection. In fact, all of these features together are important enough to the
application of the name formula that they seem, indeed, to be the reason for its use, rather than
the actual meaning of the names themselves. This study examines the use of names in the Pyramid
Texts through a study of nicknames, paronomasia, and the latent divine power inherent in naming
in a religious context.

Ancient Egyptian religious literature contains a phrase that is temporally ubiquitous, the so-called
name formula.1 Its simplest paradigm is m rn=f n(y), and an example of its use is:

Horus has opened your eye for you, so that you may see with it in its name of Opener of the
Roads (PT 369 643a).2

As may be seen from the above, the formula is found as a subsidiary adverbial clause modifying a
verbal statement,3 the content of which carries mythological importance. The name in the formula is not
the owners (or, in this case, the owners eye), but is a mythical element, relating to the pantheon or the
afterlife. The earliest extant examples are found in the Pyramid Texts, among the latest comes from a naos
from Bubastis from the Thirtieth Dynasty, and examples can be found from every period in between. The
formula was used in religious and mortuary texts in most of the familiar contextspyramid,4 temple5 and

J. Assmann, Death and Salvation in Ancient Egypt, D. Lorton, transl. (Ithaca, 2005), 352.
All translations are by the author.
The verb forms can be almost anything, from indicative sDm=f (e.g., PT 364 620), prospective sDm=f (e.g., PT 306 479),
subjunctive sDm=f (e.g., PT 368 638) to past perfect sDm.n=f (e.g., PT 301 452). For the use of these particular grammatical
terms, see A. Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian A Linguistic Introduction (Cambridge, 1995), 7782.
J. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts (Atlanta, 2005); Faulkner, Pyr.; Sethe, Pyr. IIII.
M. Ayad, The Pyramid Texts of Amenirdis I: Selection and Layout, JARCE 43 (2007), 7192; T. Gillen, The Historical
Inscription on Queen Hatshepsuts Chapelle Rouge: Part 2: Translation, BACE 16 (2005), 4, 6.

Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt, Vol. 51, pp. 235242
doi: 235
236 JARCE 51 (2015)

naos walls,6 coffins,7 statues,8 and papyri,9 and it was used in situations in which the protagonist (ei-
ther the king or a deity) is required to perform some action, or act in some capacity. The grammatical
form of the formula is generally stable and simple: VSOPP. The important changes, found in the verb
and the name, are lexical and apparently are driven by context. The verb and the name complement
each other, and always involve paronomasia, or word play, of one kind or another. The personal speci-
ficity and mutability of the name seem to be unusual characteristics in the field of onomastics; even
nicknames are used as identifying markers (among other things) and thus are generally not change-
able.10 Such singular conditions may be the result of a method of interpreting ones place in the world
and society. The religious context of the formula and the word play, then, coupled with what may be
seen as an apparently fluctuating nature of personhood, may indicate that names and their use in the
formula had implications for the Egyptian understanding of self. This investigation focuses on the
formula in the Pyramid Texts; however, the theological principles involved would seem to apply atem-
porally throughout Egypts history.
A spatial analysis of the use of the formula in the textual pyramids indicates that the texts with the
name formula tend to be found in the burial chamber, although this varies quite distinctly between
corpora. Unas and Tetis texts, for example, spread the name formula texts relatively evenly between
the burial and antechambers. After Teti, however, the texts are only rarely found in the antechamber. In
fact, seven of the nine name formula texts on Tetis antechamber walls are found in the burial chamber
of the remaining Sixth Dynasty kings pyramids. As is often the case with the Pyramid Texts, Pepi Is
corpus seems to be a pivotal point of change,11 although what that change indicates is more obscure.
The formula itself is found anywhere from once to eleven times in individual texts. There are thirty-
eight texts in the Pyramid Texts that contain the formula; twelve of those have only one example,12 while
twenty-six have as many as eleven.13 The formula is frequently used in clusters within certain texts. In
some texts, the formula is used in nearly every sentence, such as PT 366 626633, a representative

O Osiris, the king, rise, lift yourself up. Your mother Nut has borne you, Geb has wiped your
mouth for you, the Great Ennead protects you and has put for you your foe under you. Carry
one who is greater than you, they say to him in your name of Great Saw Shrine. / Lift up
him who is greater than you, they say in your name of Thinite Nome. / Your two sisters Isis
and Nephthys come to you so that they may make you healthy, and you are black (as in fertile)
and great in your name of Bitter Lakes Wall, you are healthy and great in your name of
The Great Green; / look, you are great and round in <your name of> The Great Circle;

N. Spencer, A Naos of Nekhthornheb from Bubastis: Religious Iconography and Temple Building in the 30th Dynasty (London,
2006), 24.
R. Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Coffin Texts (Oxford, 1973), 34, 60, 62, 63, and passim. See M. Gilula, An Egyptian Etymol-
ogy of the Name of Horus? JEA 68 (1982), 25960, for a short discussion on the meaning of the name formula and the use of
paronomasia, as found particularly in CT 148.
F. Friedman, On the Meaning of Some Anthropoid Busts from Deir el-Medina, JEA 71 (1985), 92; A. Lloyd, The Inscrip-
tion of Udjahorresnet: A Collaborators Testament, JEA 68 (1982), 169.
S. Hollis, On the Nature of Bata, the Hero of the Papyrus dOrbiney, Cd 59, no. 118 (1984), 256; M. Poo, Liquids in
Temple Ritual, in W. Wendrich and E. Frood, ed., UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles, 2010, 5, http://digital2.library., accessed 24.04.2014.
See, for example, T. Holland, Jr., The Many Faces of Nicknames, Names 38:4 (1990), 25572 and P. Leslie and J. Skip-
per, Jr., Toward a Theory of Nicknames: A Case for Socio-Onomastics, Names 38:4 (1990), 27382, although the static nature
of nicknames does not always hold. See M. Adams, Nicknames, Interpellation, and Dubyas Theory of the State, Names 56:4
(2008), 20620.
J. Hellum, Pepi I: A Case Study of Royal Religious Devotion in the Old Kingdom, in A. Mackay, ed., ASCS 32 Selected
Proceedings (; Allen, Pyramid Texts, 97.
PTs 254, 311, 372, 433, 434, 443, 568, 635, 658, 569, 665B, and 690.
PTs 33 (x2); 215 (x2); 219 (x11); 273 (x2); 301 (x7); 306 (x2); 356 (x7); 357 (x5); 364 (x7); 366 (x10); 368 (x4); 369 (x3); 370
(x3); 371 (x4); 377 (x2); 423 (x4); 477 (x3); 532 (x3); 534 (x7); 587 (x7); 588 (x3); 592 (x3); 593 (x7); 606 (x3); 660 (x2); and 666
(x2). All of these, with one exception (PT 534), are found in the corpora of two or more kings.

look, you are circular and round as the circle which surrounds the Outer Isles; look, you are
round and great as The Great Encircler of the Ocean; / Isis and Nephthys have awaited you in
Saut, because their god is with you <in your name of> Lord of Saut, because their god is
with you in your name of God. / They praise you so that you avoid being far from them in
your name of Divine Beard. They join you, so that you avoid being angry in your name of
Djenderu-bark. / Your sister Isis comes to you, rejoicing through love of you. You have placed
her on your phallus and your seed is issued into her, she being effective as Sopdet. Hor-Soped
has come from you as Horus who is in Sopdet / and you have become an akh through him in
his name of Akh who is in the Djenderu-bark. He greets you in his name of Horus, the son
who protects his father.

Semantically, when the formula is used in this type of clustering, the sentences seem to have little in
common with one another. The references to deities seem not to have a logical progression. This may
also be said of the names, although in this instance there is a vague geographical similarity in the use
of two different terms for sea or ocean (the Great Green and the Great Circle). In fact, the names
and the owners of the names in individual sentences have nothing in common except the reiteration
of consonants between the two elements, a kind of wordplay.14 In the following sentence, They join
you, so that you avoid being angry in your name of Djenderu-bark, for example, the crucial elements
are angry (Dnd) and Djenderu-bark (Dndrw). The verb, Dnd, while missing the final two consonants
of Dndrw, nevertheless, would seem to have been chosen for the three consonants it has in common
with the name of the bark. Another example, You are healthy and great in your name of The Great
Green, uses the elements of the Great Green [wAD wr] as feminine substantivized participles acting
as predicate adjectives [wAd.t wr.t].15 This use of word play or paronomasia is an essential component of
the name formula, and is discussed further below.
The names themselves fall into four categories: abstract, concrete, geographical, and divine. The
abstract category includes names such as He who issued from cool water [pr.w m qb] (PT 33 24; 423
765), who is the king, and He at whom the earth quakes [wrw n=f tA] (PT 215 143), who is Horus.
These are less frequent than the others and lack specificity regarding name and/or geography. The
names themselves in this category are generally phrases, such as in the two examples given. They are ap-
plied to both king and deities. The category of concrete names uses nouns, and sometimes accompany-
ing adjectives, to describe the designee. Sarcophagus, Coffin, and Tomb are three such concrete
names given to Nut in PT 364 616.16 Others, for the king, include The Great Green [wAD wr], The
Great Circle [Sn wr], and Sacred Beard [dwA-nTr] in PT 366 628. These names are generally unam-
biguous, and this category of name is quite frequent. Names in the geographical category are natural
elements either in the afterlife and/or in Egypt itself, such as Horizon from which Re goes forth [Axt
prrt Ra im=s] (PT 368 636), Canal of the god [mr-nTr] (PT 593 1634) or Bitter Lakes [km-wr] (PT
593 1630), all of which are names belonging to the king. These differ from the abstract names in that
they are specific about the locality or contain an element that relates to a specified deity. The final cat-

Word play was used in all forms of Egyptian, and in all genres of the literature. See, for example, A. Loprieno, La Pense
et lcriture: pour une analyse smiotique de la culture gyptienne (Paris, 2001), 12958; idem, Puns and Word Play in Ancient Egyp-
tian, in S. Noegel, ed., Puns and Pundits. Word Play in the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Literature (Bethesda, 2000), 320;
M. Malaise, Calembours et mythes dans lgypte ancienne, in H. Limet and J. Ries, eds., Le mythe, son langage et son message
(Louvain-la-Neuve, 1983), 8196; R. Moftah, ra-Datierungen, Regierungsjahre und Zahlwortspiele, Cd 39 (1964), 4460;
S. Noegel and K. Szpakowska, Word Play in the Ramesside Dream Manual, SAK 35 (2006), 19495; G. Vittmann, Personal
Names: Function and Significance, in W. Wendrich and E. Frood, eds., UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology, Los Angeles, 2013, 116. accessed 17.01.2015.
Loprieno, Ancient Egyptian, 11314.
James Allen discussed the association of Nut with the architecture of the pyramids in Reading a Pyramid, in C. Berger,
G. Clerc, and N. Grimal, eds., Hommage Jean Leclant, Vol. 1 (Cairo, 1994), 2526. Allen proposed the epigraphic chambers of
the pyramid were aligned with the dwA.t (the sarcophagus chamber), the Ax.t (the antechamber), and the p.t (the corridor) in what
he named a cosmology of the pyramid chambers (25). H. Hays provided a counter-argument to this suggestion, in Unreading
the Pyramids, BIFAO 109 (2009), 195220.
238 JARCE 51 (2015)

egory, divine names, is applied only very rarely in comparison to the others. The king is called upon in
his names of Anubis in PT 660 1871, and Soped and Shu in PT 578 1534 and 1537 respectively.17
Interestingly, the king is given the name of God [nTr] (PTs 215 147, 356 580, 366 630, 368 638,
423 765, and 588 1608) on six occasions,18 as well as the epithet Foremost of the Westerners [xnty-
imntyw] (PT 371 650) once. He is often otherwise associated with deities, but almost always in a posi-
tion of service (such as, above, Horizon from which Re goes forth). The deities are also called upon
by the names of other deities, and Geb and Re are once called upon in their own names of Geb and Re
(PT 592 1615 and 606 1695). In the case of Re, he is called upon in his names of Kheprer, Re, and
Atum, in accordance with the appearance of the sun throughout the day.19 Other instances of this use
of the formula are found in PT 477 959, in which Seth is called upon in his name of Orion, and in PT
301 452, in which Horus Eye is called upon in his name of Re.
The name formula could be used in both a positive and a negative manner in the Pyramid Texts.
The transformative aspect of names can be found in several different permutations: in the elevation of
the king to godhood, through the use of the word nTr, just mentioned, or the divine epithet, Foremost
of the Westerners; in the attribution of the name, Contented Spirit, kA Htp, to the deceased; in the
identification of sacred geography within the king, such as Wall of the Bitter Lakes,20 Palace of the
Great Saw,21 or Thinite Nome.22 Other, more negative attributions are rarer, and are never applied
to the king. They are, however, applied to deities in specific contexts. PT 534 12671274 has a series
of conditions applied to various deities, who may potentially appear in their evil comings. Isis, for
example, is given the name Extensive of Putrefaction,23 Nephthys is given Female Proxy Who has
No Vagina,24 and Thoth You Have No Mother.25 These are identities that are used to defend the de-
ceased king against malevolent divine alter-egos, before sending those deities to a place in which they
will be punished.26 The formulae in this text are clustered; each segment, using near-identical language,
first desires that the various deities not arrive in their evil comings. They are then warded off using
these infelicitous names, and sent to various destinations in which the deities have been, among other

Other possible examples are found in PT 532 12551262; however this text is somewhat ambiguous in its attribution
of names. It is a text found only in the corpora of Pepi I and Pepi II, and the ambiguity lies in the differences between the two
corpora. Pepi Is text, in 1256, uses the name Osiris Pepi, while the same section in Pepi IIs text omits the Pepi; thus the texts
subject is either the deceased king as Osiris NN, or the god himself. For the purposes of this study, this discrepancy only has an
impact insomuch as the owner of the name of Sokar is unclear.
It must be recognized here that the term nTr, while translated as God, with a capitalized initial letter, is not intended to
represent an omniscient monotheistic deity, but rather a general concept of divinity. The reason for capitalizing the word lies in
the use of it as a name. See E. Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt: The One and the Many, J. Baines (transl.) (London,
1983), 3365, for a discussion of the Egyptian perception of the term.
This relationship between the three deities is found throughout the Pyramid Texts, and is seen quite clearly in PT 606
1695, May they (the gods) appear to this Merenre like Re in this his name of Kheprer. May you (the king) ascend to them like Re
in this his name of Re. May you turn aside from their faces like Re in this his name of Atum, representing the daily appearance,
ascension, and disappearance of the sun.
PT 366 628 (TPMN).
PT 355 627 (TPMN).
PT 366 627 (TPMN).
PT 534 1272 (P).
PT 534 1273 (P).
PT 534 1271 (P).
As the anonymous reviewer noted, these may not have necessarily been understood by the Egyptians as negative. The
putrefaction could be referring to the decomposing body of Osiris, with reference to Isis as one of the goddesses who discovered
it. The name of Thoth, You Have No Mother, could be a reference to self-generation, rather than an insult designed to impugn
Thoth as a being. See J. Allen, Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts (New Haven, 1988), and
C. Manassa, The Late Egyptian Underworld: Sarcophagi and Related Texts from the Nectanebid Period, vol. 1 (Wiesbaden, 2007), 5152.
The context of these names in the Pyramid Texts, however, is decidedly negative. For example, If Nephthys comes with this her
evil coming [iw.t Nb.t-1w.t m iw.t=s itiw Dw.t], then one must say to her this her name of Female Proxy Who has No Vagina. Go to
the Mansions of Selket, to that place where you were beaten [upon] your backside. The context within which the names occur
must surely, in these instances, lend a more negative flavor to those names.

things, humiliated. Nephthys, for example, is told to go to the Mansions of Selket, to that place where
you were beaten on your backside ( 1673).
The name formula has two elements within it, although Assmanns definition includes only the
name. The action which is undertaken in the name of is the first component in the formula, with
the name as the second component. This binary approach to the world, the balance implicit in pairs, is
a common thread in Egyptian religion and worldview. Within the name formula, the apposition of the
initial clause (e.g., you are round and great) and the concluding clause (e.g., in your name of Great
Circle, i.e., the Ocean, according to Faulkner) provide a paired juxtaposition that agreed with the most
elemental Egyptian philosophy, that of the structure of the world. In the most important of transitions
for the king, the initial clause is balanced with the concluding one in agreement with the way of the
world, making it a deeply rooted constant.
Paronomasia is an essential part of the name formula; every example of the formula in the Pyramid
Texts shows some evidence of word play. It occurs invariably between the verb and the name, and the
word play lies in the spelling of the word, rather than in its meaning. In the following example, the evi-
dence of word play is obvious in the original:

THnHn=k im=s m-m nTrw m rn=s pw n THnt

You should gleam by means of it among the gods, in this its name of Faience. (PT 301 454)

The verb, THnHn, to gleam27 contains the same consonants, bar only the feminine t, to THnt, faience.28
It is more common than not that, as here, the verb and the name29 share a cluster of consonants, most,
but rarely all, of which are identical. There are examples of this formula that use the consonants from
several words, as in the following:

m dD Wsir is=k r=i m xpr rn=f m %kr

when Osiris said, Go, you, from me, when his name occurred as Sokar. (PT 532 1256)

Here, the imperative, is, followed by the third person masculine suffix pronoun, =k, and the preposi-
tion, r, provide the necessary consonants for the word play with the name of the god, Sokar (%kr). Lopri-
eno notes that this type of word play is founded on consonantal similarities, rather than phonetic ones,
given that the pronunciation of this sentence is not likely to be paronomastic in the modern sense.30
Thus, the fact that the word play is broken up between several elements is irrelevant; that their pres-
ence is in the correct order is the important factor. The word play seems to be so important that it even
trumps sense at times. The most important element appears to be the name, and the action required
prior to the name seems to be chosen to suit the name, rather than the other way around, or in an equal
partnership. Thus, in an example alluded above (PT 593 1630), you are black (i.e., fertile) (km) and
great (wr) is one initial clause, with Bitter Lake (km wr)31 as its concluding clause. Calling the king
great is in line with the general extravagant royal praise found in nearly every text. The term com-
plete is less obvious. The king as a fertile object or figure (if the above translation is accepted) is not
a frequent image in the Pyramid Texts, but it is not outside the realms of possible royal imagery.32 The
two adjectives, however, while laudatory, are not well known in phrases, and the relationship between

Wb. 5, 395, 3.
Wb. 5, 390, 12.
In calling this a name rather than a noun, I am adhering to the subcategorial differentiation made by Anderson between
proper noun and noun. In using the word name, I am intending that the word (or words) are intended as an appellation of a
specific person or thing, rather than a more general designation. J. Anderson, The Grammar of Names (Oxford, 2007), 3.
Loprieno, Puns and Word Play, 13.
Wb. 5, 126, 4. The wall element in the name is debatable; the Wrterbuch includes the wall sign as a determinative.
See J. Baines, Fecundity Figures: Egyptian personification and the iconology of a genre (Oxford, 1985), for a more general discus-
sion regarding fecundity figures. Other examples of the king as object of fertility in the Pyramid Texts are PT 366 628 and PT
600 1658.
240 JARCE 51 (2015)

the adjectives and the Bitter Lakes is even more obscure. It is posited, therefore, that km and wr were
chosen to reflect the consonants of km wr, and not vice versa. This is on the basis that aligning the king
with geographical elements in mundane Egypt is of fundamental importance to his relationship with
the land and its people. It might be said that the king is Egypt, in a metaphorical sense. The name km wr
Bitter Lakes,33 then, seems more likely to be the element which the others must mimic.
Of the eight different and overlapping types of punning or word play delineated by Noegel and Sz-
pakowska in a 2006 article on word play in the Ramesside Dream Papyrus,34 three are commonly found
in the name formula: alliteration, antanaclasis (repetition of a word that has different meanings: time
flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana), and paronomasia. Each of these are essential to the effec-
tiveness of the formula in its ritual role, and each is found in most examples of the formula. Paronoma-
sia is a broader category than the other two; it encompasses the quality of consonance and also relies
on a comparable orthography. Because this category is broader, it is less specific, and can be more of
an umbrella term than either alliteration or antanaclasis. As Noegel and Szpakowska note, however,
these categories all overlap to a considerable degree.35 Alliteration, the repetition of letters, is used by
virtue of the necessity for consonantal similarities. While not every consonant is the same, they must
presumably maintain enough similarity for the formula to be effective in its ritual role.36 Antanaclasis is
also a characteristic quality of name formula word play. Unlike alliteration, however, antanaclasis relies
on the same number of the same consonants within one word in order to work, a condition that occurs
less often than alliteration. Thus, the word sAb in PT 532 1257 is used both for the verb to drip in
the initial clause, and the noun jackal in the name Jackal of Upper Egypt in the concluding clause.
The phonetic signs for each are identical (sAb), with determinatives appropriate to each words meaning,
a recumbent jackal (E15) and a dripping liquid (possibly a variation of D26 or a jar pouring liquid, as
in D60). No matter the type of word play, each was an intrinsic part of the ritual process, a paradigm
that provided an epistemological foundation37 for the theology inherent in the formula. The verb or
phrase is connected with the name through more than simply word play; together they create a means
of accessing the afterlife, by creating a linguistically liminal space within the text. This use of language
as a liminal force is found, for example, in the mutilation of certain dangerous hieroglyphs, such as
snakes, a practice found in the Pyramid Texts and elsewhere.38 The Egyptians understood hieroglyphs
to have the potential to open metaphoric doors to the afterlife; where they were understood to live.
Some signs, therefore, were dangerous, while others were benevolent. As they existed in this world, and,
by virtue of magic, in the next, they could provide a means of communication between the two worlds.39
The aspects of the name formula in the Pyramid Texts would seem to suggest that it was used to a
specific purpose. The fact that they primarily appear in the burial chamber, particularly after the reign
of Teti, points to their importance in the resurrection of the king, simply due to the proximity to the
sarcophagus. The chamber in which the body of the king rests is logically the chamber in which the
revivification of the deceased begins. Calling forth the divine attributes or alter egos within the king
is an essential process, one that enables him to ascend into the sky and the afterlife. Noegel and Szpa
kowska suggest that punning was considered a rhetorical, hermeneutic, and illocutionary tool of ritual

And not, as Allen, Pyramid Texts, 81, translates it, the Great Black Wall.
Noegel and Szpakowska, Word Play, 19495.
Noegel and Szpakowska, Word Play, 195.
Several similar consonants had a tendency over time to collapse one into the other, a factor which must be taken into con-
sideration when examining texts for word-play. For a discussion of the collapse of these consonants such as s/z, t/T, and d/D, see
J. Allen, The Ancient Egyptian Language: an historical study (Cambridge, 2013), 3754.
Loprieno, Puns and Word Play, 13.
P. Lacau, Suppressions et modifications de signes dans les textes funraires, ZS 51 (1913), 164; N. Picardo, Semantic
Homicide and the So-Called Reserve Heads: the theme of decapitation in Egyptian funerary religion and some implications for
the Old Kingdom, JARCE 43 (2007), 23334.
R. Ritner, The Mechanics of Ancient Egyptian Magical Practice (Chicago, 1995), 4748, 67ff.

power.40 As a part of that ritual tool, the names themselves are sacred and potent. Their place in the
formula is linked via the word-play previously discussed. In the minutest sense, it is the linking of quali-
ties in the king (such as healthy and great) antanaclastically with divine qualities or names (such as
the Great Green) that bridges the span between the two worlds.
From a practical standpoint, the function of the name formula in the Pyramid Texts may be related
to ritual. Nordh has discussed the importance of the use of names in rituals. Specifically she looks at
the ritual aspect of curses, in the form of the execration ritual.41 This may be an important avenue to
consider. The power held within the mythic nature of the names may indicate a possible logic in their
use. There are no immediately obvious ritual features in the name-formula texts, but the grouping in
clusters and the repetitive nature of some of the texts are elements in other ritual texts. PT 534
12671274, of the undesirable divine names, echoes the name formulae in a series of phrases. It is that
reiteration that suggests a ritual aspect, which can also be seen in the texts which are less rigidly fixed.
Jonathan Smith notes that the exchange of communication between man and deity inherent in the
liminal space of ritual requires repetition as a means to success.42 It is a matter of creating a mnemonic
that, firstly, makes it easier to remember the ritual language, and secondly, is a method of decreas-
ing static and noise (i.e., the accidental) so that the exchange of information can be increased, a
method Smith calls ritual repetition and routinization.43 The repeated segments of PT 534 and the
clustered names of PT 366, among others, point to the possibility of a ritual being undertaken. The
repetition in the name-formula texts is not slavishly identical, changes being made to include minor
variations in vocabulary. It may be that these small changes are made to be inclusive, or to suit more
particularly a certain deity. They occur so regularly that it seems likely that they made no difference to
the efficacy of the texts.
The question of identity and names in ancient Egypt is an interesting one. The use of the name
seems to differ between contexts. A quotidian use seems to be fundamentally different than the use in a
judicial or religious context. In an every-day context, it was not unusual for Old Kingdom Egyptians to
have three names, a major name (rn aA) , a minor name (rn nDs), and a final name (rn nfr) (to use
Vittmanns nomenclature).44 The major name was one that was both longer and usually basilophorus,
in which one element is the name of a king, or theophorus, in which one element is the name of a deity.
The minor name was an abbreviation of the major name, in much the same way we abbreviate certain
names. The final or beautiful name was, perhaps, a nickname or, as Fecht suggests, a name that was
recently adopted or was somehow important.45 This relies on the translation of nfr as end or final.46
Scheeler-Schweizer notes that complete name changes in the Old Kingdom are unknown, and partial
name changes are only known to occur after a change of ruler in a basilophoric name (in a very rare
example, #ntj-kA/Jxx.js son, +d(j)-&t.j.j, changed his name to +d(j)-Pp.y.j presumably when Pepi I came
to the throne). This may indicate that the name in a commonplace context was an elemental part of
identification, and not easily dismissed.
In judicial circumstances, however, name-changing was a punishment frequently used as a damna-
tio memoriae. The name-changes of six of the defendants in the Harem Conspiracy of Ramesses III is
a good and well-known example. Re-hates-him (MsD-sw-Ra), One-Whom-Re-Blinds (PA-Ra-kAmn=f),
Evil One of Thebes (Bin-m-WAst), Sliced-Ear (^ad-msDrt), Evil-Penkhuy (Pn-Hwy-bin), and The
Punished One (PAi-nik) are examples of punitive acts, intended to anathematize the criminals in the

Noegel and Szpakowska, Word Play, 196; Ritner, Mechanics of Magical Practice, 4748, 67ff.; Picardo, Semantic Homi-
cide, 23334.
K. Nordh, Aspects of Ancient Egyptian Curses and Blessings: Conceptual Background and Transmission (Uppsala, 1996), 95. See
also S. Morschauser, Threat-Formulae in Ancient Egypt: A Study of the History, Structure, and Use of Threats and Curses in Ancient Egypt
(Baltimore, 1991).
J. Smith, The Bare Facts of Ritual, History of Religions 20 (1980), 114.
Smith, The Bare Facts of Ritual, 114.
G. Vittmann, Personal Names, 3. The king, of course, had five, in the royal titulary.
G. Fecht, Die Knigs-Insignien mit s-Suffix (1. Teil), SAK 1 (1974), 19192.
Wb. 2, 262, notes, this is only known from the late Middle Kingdom, and is generally spelled and transliterated nfry.t.
242 JARCE 51 (2015)

afterlife. Found in the Turin Judicial Papyrus, these names are almost certainly false,47 as they are too
ill-omened to be suitable for given names. Thus, the name change was a change of identity. The owner
went from being someone whose name held no distressful portents, to someone who was in effect
damned by the gods, for an eternity. The first two names are likely imperfect sDm=fs, and therefore, the
punishments of the hatred of Re and the blinding by Re would be ongoing occurrences. This is similar
to the use of negative names in the Pyramid Texts, discussed earlier. The use of such names is intended
to act not only as an insult to the designee, but also, and more importantly, as a curse.
Assmann sees the use of language in general as providing the intersection of a Venn diagram of
sorts, overlapping the divine world, including the afterlife, and this world. It creates a liminal space in
which it is possible to stand in these two worlds simultaneously. Specifically, this formula operates as
a lynchpin between this world and the next, providing the unity and meaningfulness of reality.48 With
the utterance of the formula, and the following name, the deceased is at once understood as divine. As
Hornung notes, this type of formula is embedded in the notion of the necessity of plurality in Egyptian
religion,49 for which Frankfort coined the phrase multiplicity of approaches.50 Names provide a means
by which the various elements of the deitys or humans multifaceted nature can be illustrated.
The name in the formula was more than simply a name with important religious implications. On
a metaphysical level, the designee was given a changeable, transient attribute, only intended to define
him or her for a specific situation. A feature or quality was called into play, one that was outside their
physical and mental selves. At the same time, this feature was an inherent part of themselves, by virtue
of the fact that it was their name. The pronoun presumes the innate quality, while the name itself sup-
plies the peripherality. It implies that names were more than mere appellations, because they carried
within them the latent possibility of otherness. Thus, the definition of self, for the Egyptians, seems to
have been a multifaceted, mutable, and perhaps even fragmented thing that changed with each context.
They reflect the flexibility of existence. It could be argued that Egyptians saw the name as both an ap-
pellation that stipulates a specific person in certain circumstances, and a descriptor which infiltrates, in
a sense, the very character of a person.

University of Auckland

A. de Buck, The Judicial Papyrus of Turin, JEA 23 (1937), 154; Morschauser, Threat-Formulae, 11416, 11819.
Assmann, Death and Salvation, 352.
E. Hornung, Conceptions of God in Ancient Egypt, J. Baines, transl. (London, 1983), 125.
H. Frankfort, Ancient Egyptian Religion (New York, 1961), 4.