The homecoming of the goddess

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“The Homecoming of the Goddess” (also “Myth of the Sun's Eye” or “Myth of the Sun's Eye that Dwells Far Away” ) is the name of a religious work that has been written in several demotic versions since the second century AD. In the third century AD, it was translated into the Greek language . Some older forms of language, which the writer has to explain to the reader because they are incomprehensible, refer to templates that are partly based on original texts that go back to the time of the New Kingdom (1550 BC to 1070 BC).

“The Homecoming of the Goddess” was the most extensive work of ancient Egyptian literature and was of particular importance. The texts are sometimes extremely difficult to understand, which is why several conclusions and connections were made in Egyptology with regard to ancient Egyptian mythology. Newly found papyri have now been able to better understand the thematic connection and thereby refute some of the earlier equations and interpretations.

Animal fables are embedded in the main narrative for the sake of clarity . The structure and composition of those animal stories required extensive knowledge of ancient Egyptian cultural history, which only the elite priesthood possessed. The texts used were partly connected with the representations in Ptolemaic temples. The special meaning of the content is also clear from the fact that attention was paid to the verbatim transmission. This feature is exceptional for demotic literature and highlights the exclusive religiosity.


The goddess Tefnut had left her father Re and the land of Egypt in anger because of an unclear issue regarding the sacrificial rites and was staying in Punt , about 120 days' journey away . Re commissioned the gods Thoth and Shu to bring back and appease the Tefnut. To this end, Thoth, appearing as a dog monkey, made it clear that Tefnut was so vital in Egypt. After Tefnut agreed to talk to Thoth, Thoth symbolized the mythological role of Tefnut in the stored animal stories The Cat and the Vulture , The Lion and the Mouse , The Two Jackals and The Seer and the Listener .

According to Thoth's reports, Tefnut's mood changed from anger to homesickness, whereupon she decided to go back. To keep the goddess happy, the dog monkey entertained her with numerous jokes. Tefnut shortened the length of the return journey through several transformations, for example into a vulture , in order to be able to cover the distance more quickly by flight. As a result, Tefnut reached the borders of Egypt after only three days. Their arrival caused palpable relief across the country, which was expressed in exuberant drunkenness and fertility festivals.

Mythological connections

The story Homecoming of the Goddess is based on older mythological ideas about the goddess Sopdet , who moved to the southeast as the eye of Re and the embodiment of Sirius , remained invisible for almost 70 days in order to announce the imminent flood of the Nile with the return through the heliacal rise . During the heliacal rising, the colors of Sirius change; initially red as a symbol for fire, anger and blood. Then Sirius changes to a bluish color, which the priesthood interpreted as "calming the Sopdet".

The return of Sirus was accompanied by epidemics for which Sopdet and her Heriu-renpet demons were held responsible. The subject of the book of the heavenly cow is closely connected . Due to this connection between nature and myth, it is not surprising that "previous versions" of the myth of the return of the goddess were already documented in the New Kingdom and refer to an older tradition.


  • Friedhelm Hoffmann , Joachim Friedrich Quack : Anthology of demotic literature (= introductions and source texts on Egyptology. Volume 4). LIT, Berlin 2007, ISBN 3-8258-0762-2 .
  • Alexandra von Lieven : Wine, women and song. Rituals for the dangerous goddess. In: Carola Metzner-Nebelsick: Rituals in prehistory, antiquity and the present. Studies in Near Eastern, Prehistoric and Classical Archeology, Egyptology, Ancient History, Theology and Religious Studies. Interdisciplinary conference from 1st to 2nd February 2002 at the Free University of Berlin. Leidorf, Rahden 2003, pp. 47–55.
Papyrus Leiden I 384
  • Françoise de Cenival: Le mythe de l'oeil du soleil: Translittération et Traduction avec Commentaire philologique (Demotic Studies 9, Papyrus Leiden I 384). Sommerhausen, Zauzich 1988, ISBN 3-924151-02-4 .
  • Wilhelm Spiegelberg : The Egyptian myth of the sun's eye (papyrus of animal fables - "Kufi"); based on the Leiden demotic papyrus I 384. Schultz, Strasbourg 1917.
Greek version of Papyrus BM 274


  1. a b Alexandra von Lieven: Wine, woman and song. Rituals for the dangerous goddess. P. 48 and p. 50-51.