When We Say We're Studying the Cannibal Hymn It Looks Like This

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When the information is highly specialized in a detailed study students only have a few options. Without knowledge of the primary language even some who call themselves scholars have no option but to refer to an authority on the matter. A beginner in Egyptian grammar, only using Egyptological dictionaries trying to translate this would not be translating anything. Instead one would be putting together a jig saw puzzle of predefined terms by European Egyptologist then acting like they rendered a translation.

The secret with Medu Netcher is to scrutinize primary sources from an African perspective. We let concepts get lost in translation when the translator has limited knowledge about the culture of the author of the primary account. Many translations of Pyramid Text were done by Christians and scholars of the Jewish community who often superimpose the biblical narrative and lingo on to Ancient Egyptian text. This is how a person studying Egyptology via secondary sources can return an Ancient Egyptian translation that reads like a bible verses "thou shall not.." etc. This also happens with cultural customs that have been grossly misconstrued by students who misunderstand African Culture. This is how we arrive with so many erroneous translations of Kemetic text that offer false concepts of ancient Egyptian culture. Let's take the Cannibal Hymn for instance. The title and most translations of The Cannibal Hymn would lead the reader to believe this was a song of cannibals, or a hymn about cannibalism. To the credit of the Egyptologist that produced these early translations, they got one thing right. This is a sort of a hymn, but not the type of hymn a European Egyptologist would be use to. Equip with a skill set in Egyptian grammar, a young intercity teenager of African decent would be more culturally equip to realize the nature of certain pyramid text like the so called Cannibal Hymn than the average Egyptologist. It is because "hymns" like these have a place in modern African American culture. Today hymns of this sort are commonly known as "bars".

A bar is a unit of time in music. Most bars in hip hop represent four beats. These four beats are traditionally called the "measure" but the term measure and bar has become interchangeable in modern music lingo. Since hip hop places poetry to beats the amount of lyrics one can say within a bar (4 beats) has become known as a bar. Since 16 bars constitute a standard rap verse an idiom for performing a verse developed by artist saying the phrase "spit a 16". "Spit a 16" eventually became "spit a bar" even though a bar only represent 1/16th of the lyrics said in a verse. The Cannibal Hymn falls in the category of ancient bars. More specifically the cannibal hymn would be categorized like a quotable battle rap, like a esteem ancient verse lithographed into a stone magazine that details the work of our ancient "rapgods". It is because the modern term rapgod can be equated to the term used in West Africa, Jeli, or Griot. A griot was an African storyteller, a poet, historian and an esteemed elder in African cultures. A rapgod is the same thing in hip hop culture. In a lithographed embellishment the persona of the Nysut (Pharaoh) would encompass all the attributes of any esteemed member of Kemetic society. He would boast of being the wisest, the best warrior, the most loved etc. Comparing the Pyramid text to some of the best modern day rap verses where the artist embellishes his character by metaphorically devouring his opponents shows death by devouring to be a long running feature of African poetical license. 

The reason this text earned the name Cannibal Hymn is because of the ultimate theme of the text,"death by devouring", which it can be strongly argued is consistently with the ultimate theme in modern African American Hip hop battle verses, "getting ate". Just like the so called Cannibal Hymn, to "get ate", or "death by devouring", is the ultimate poetical death of an enemy poet. In battle rap all of the other great emcees outside of your crew are your enemies even if you have alliances and truces. This ideology is reflected in the pyramid text and specifically in the text known as the Cannibal Hymn. 

One key to looking at things from an African perspective is being practical. The verses in the so called Cannibal Hymn are just so outrageous that only a child would think this has to do with cannibalism. First of all Unas is dead. So a dead man cannot really cannibalize anything. Secondly, Unas verse is about devouring the Netcheru (element of nature), devouring his elders and superiors that he meets in the afterlife, and devouring all things wise as he establishes himself in the afterlife, among the netcheru. Also the nature of the text, the usage of the ideograms and phonograms is unique in a way that it was written. Egyptologist miss the obvious yet unique use of double words in this text that represent legacy and heritage. Instead they translate it away as if the use of duplicate phonograms was insignificant.

There is a part in the text that some use to say Unas actually ate his mother and father (smh). Yes, some opponents of Kemetic culture will misconstrue Egyptological work and use this to debate their peers about cannibalism. The translation at pyramidtextonline.com (Mercer's translation)

 394: "after they have seen Unas appearing and powerful as a god who lives on his fathers, who feeds on his mothers!"

The word used for feed here is /wSd/ "to nurture, feed". This means to get nourishment from. The term used for "living on his fathers" is /anxw/ "Lives". To live on one's fathers has nothing to do with cannibalism. This is about heritage. If we see the photo the word "mothers" (the phonogram of the vulture) is not pluralized in Medu netcher. Instead the phonogram /mwt/ is repeated 3 times. Does this mean "mothers"? A man has one mother. Most likely this should be looked at as 3 generations of mothers, which would indicate matrilineal nourishment or the concept of the feminine aspect providing nourishment for life. The translation says "appearing and powerful as a god who lives of his father and feeds on his mothers". There is no monotheistic god concept in Kemetic culture but the one that was superimposed on it by christian theologians. So "appearing as a god" is more-so Unas establishing himself among the netcheru, or the forces of nature.

There is a popular phrase that begins a numerous amount of kemetic text of this nature. The phrase is /Dd mdw/. This phrase translated to "words spoken" and is used all through out the Pyramid text and even in the so called Cannibal Hymn. It only takes a modern day poet well versed in medu netcher to realize /Dd mdw/ is not an indication of a spell like many Egyptologist have claimed. More astute researchers have labeled literature prefaced with /Dd mdw/ a "Recitation". This is more along this line of what it really is. I will offer that when we see /Dd mdw/ we should know it's poetry. It's "Spoken Word". This is exactly what the terms translate to. /Dd/ Djed means to speak. /mdw/ means words. /Dd mdw in/ means "Spoken word of" or "words spoken by".  Since the words do not belong to the reader, /Dd mdw in/ represent words that have been spoken already by the author. /Dd mdw/ represent words to be spoken. /Dd mdw/ could represent the words placed into the mouth of the deceased after his Opening of the Mouth ceremony.

The point being made here is there are many ways to interpret ancient text and the most accurate interpretations will come from those who 1. can scrutinize a primary source in its original language, 2. can identify the cultural customs and idioms used by the subjects, 3. use multiple disciplines in discernment of ancient text. We cannot limit our tools of decipherment to Egyptological dictionaries nor to authoritarianism. We cannot limit our tools of decipherment to views formed by religious apologist nor to western civilizations presupposed notions about ancient African culture. We must be able to read and decipher these ancient manuscripts for ourselves in order to be able to form a real opinion about what such a text means. 

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