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With a Spike and Staff in his Hand, and a Fiery Brazier above his Head: ‟First Setne” 4.35–4.36 Yet Again

Steve Vinson

Pages 33 - 68

At least since Francis Llewellyn Griffith's edition of the ‟First Tale of Setne Khaemwas” in his Stories of the High Priests of Memphis in 1900, the expression iw wn w‘.t šlt.t šbte n ḏr. ṱ=f iw wn w‘ ‘ḥ n ste.t ḥr ḏꜢḏꜢ=f (4.37, 5.37–5.38, 5.38–5.39) has been conventionally translated as ‟with a forked stick in his hand and a brazier of fire on his head,” and has generally been explained as a gesture of contrition on Setneʼs part for having stolen the ‟Magic Book of Thoth” from the tomb of Naneferkaptah. After a survey of the history of the scholarship of the question and a discussion of the etymology of the noun Slt.t, I compare the image to a vignette of a multi-headed Bes, depicted surrounded by a ring of braziers and carrying a number of staffs and harpoons or spears in his hand in the Ptolemaic magical papyrus P Brooklyn 47.218.156. I then argue that the phrase should be translated ‟with a spike and a staff in his hand, and a brazier of fire above his head,” and that the image is properly interpreted as a reference to an apotropaic ritual performed by Setne in order to defend himself against the dead Naneferkaptah.


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