Mysteries of Mehen

Each person travels alone on a journey to discover his own heart.  The ancient Egyptian board game Mehen (2500BC apprx) is believed by some researchers to represent one such spiritual journey.  In form of a spiral/serpent, players traveled to center (the serpent’s head) and back out again.  Winning the game was seen symbolic of attaining life after death.

In a previous post I had mentioned an ancient Sumerian riddle which included the line “A house set on a base like a goose.”  The riddle was one of twenty-five found written on a clay tablet which dated back to the 18th century BC.   The complete riddle (with answer) is as follows:

 

A house based on a foundation like the skies,
A house one has covered with a veil like a secret box
A house set on a base like a goose
One enters it blind,
Leaves it seeing.

What is it?  A school.

Prior to reading the above riddle, I had researched the game of Mehen and was intrigued by a similarity.  Although depictions of the game are seen on tomb walls (the earliest about 2620BC), and the game’s held significance is observed in Egyptian funerary texts, only fourteen physical game boards of Mehen have been discovered (carved of ivory, faience, or stone).  Two of these games depict a head of a goose on the outer edge where the tail of the serpent would terminate.

As the game of Mehen would begin from this house (spaces on ancient boards games are often called ‘houses’), it would seem possible there may be a connection to the Sumerian riddle and the game of Mehen.  One would enter the ‘school’ (a house set on a base like a goose), travel to the serpent’s head, and then travel back out; leaving it ‘seeing’.

There are proven links between Sumer and Egypt.  For example, the tomb of King Tutankhamen (1300BC) contained games known from both places; Twenty Squares (Royal game of Ur) and Senet.  Senet believed to possibly later replace Mehen’s role in the new kingdom.  Board games of this time had deep religious connotations and were held sacred.

Some researchers feel the head of the goose on the Mehen game board may allude to the primeval goose in an old Egyptian creation myth.  This goose laid an egg which separated heaven and earth, and of which the sun god, Ra, was born.  Mehen, who is also a known serpent deity, protected Ra on his nightly journey through the underworld and helped assure his return at dawn.

In 1990, Peter Piccione shared other findings about the game Mehen.  He feels Coffin Texts of the First Intermediate Period (2100BC approx) refer to a secret body of knowledge known as the Mysteries of Mehen.  The different spells, used in the afterlife, involve parts of the journey a person would experience and are seen portrayed in the playing of the game.  Spells like, “Make way for me; open the gate for me, you who are in Mehen…” or “As for one who knows the name of those, his roads, it is he who will enter Mehen.”  Only those who knew the Mysteries of Mehen could achieve safe passage.

Honestly, no one is for certain of all the significance the game held and much remains to explore on the subject.  With the head of the goose depicted on the Mehen game board and feeling the game represents a path to wisdom, I like the egg incubation time of a goose.  This was recently mentioned while discussing the Sumerian riddle on the tweleve forum by user Rubyfelixer.  Other egg incubation times should be noted, as well; Chickens are 21 days, ducks are 28 days, and geese are usually 30-33 days.  For the inner Sun (the egg) to be hatched (like mentioned above), these days seem suggestive of other period of times for gaining wisdom in other ‘mystery schools.’   A topic which I find interesting and will need to explore.

 

Sources:

Falkener, Edward,Games Ancient and Oriental and How to Play Them, Dover Publications, 1961

Finkel, I.L., Ancient Board Games in Perspective, British Museum Press, 2007

 

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7 Responses

  1. astree says:

    “Spells like, “Make way for me; open the gate for me, you who are in Mehen…” or “As for one who knows the name of those, his roads, it is he who will enter Mehen.” Only those who knew the Mysteries of Mehen could achieve safe passage.”

    This brought to mind the “Open sesame” command ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Sesame_(phrase)#Origin ).

    Another said: ” For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” ”

    Thanks for the continuing article, Jenny.

    astree

  2. astree says:

    Michaelr, at the tweleve.org Maranatha forum, recently referenced Jesus’ 40 days in the Wilderness – the number is recurrent in the Hebrew and Greek scripture. Regarding the incubation you mention, the alchemy literature makes various notes:

    Chemical Wedding ( per discussion in Introduction, http://www.crcsite.org/wedguide.htm )
    An Open Entrance to the Closed Palace of the King ( http://www.rexresearch.com/alchemy/opntranc.htm, “Of the Progress of the Work during the First 40 Days” )

    Flamel’s Testimony is rather clear …. and encouraging

    “I say nothing precisely about the time; for that depends on the industry of the artist; but thou canst not fail, by working as I have shown. ”

    Be Well,
    astree

    • jkile says:

      Wow, Astree, thanks for the links from both your comments.

      I wasn’t aware of the mysterious origin/connection of ‘open Sesame’. I never thought about it before.

      So many interesting things to discover…..

  3. Mark says:

    Wow! It’s like this mystery has me completely stumped. However, when I look at the Coiled Serpent, two things come to mind. The first is that it looks like some type of Solar Disk, which seems to be suggested by the uniform lines in the segments of the Serpent. Solar discs usually have lines radiating out from the center (where the sepents head is). 

    The second thing is that it looks like a sheild. This kind of reminds me of the sheild of Perseus which he used as a Mirror to slay 
    Medussa (with the serpents in her hair). 

    I remember reading somewhere that sound waves take the form of spirals. If we couple that with the understanding of the sheild, then it could also suggest a type of “Sound Reflection Effect (or Echo), kind of like sound reflecting off of one ear or into one ear. Perhaps the symbolic understanding for the sound being directed into both ears would be some type of funnel shaped torus? where the ends of the two spirals meet. This reminds me also of things like galaxies, black holes, etc. 

    You might have hit the hit ths nail on the head when you mentioned “A new type of way of seeing.” People who have taken LSD
    Experience synesthesia, where they think that they can see sounds or hear colors. When they draw pictures of what it looks like, it is usually shaped like a disc or spiral. However it was back in the 1980’s that I read about that stuff. I am guessing the understanding id the same, today.

    • Maria Rigel says:

      I don’t know where you read that sound waves are spirals, but they aren’t. They’re like concentric spheres.

  4. Maria Rigel says:

    If there really is a goose in this game, there might be a connection between the game of Mehen and the game of the goose, a game still being played in Spain, Italy and France, also making a spiral path. It’s played with dice. A description for it can be found here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Game_of_the_Goose

    It’s an interesting question whether there is knowledge encoded in the game.

  5. Maria Rigel says:

    Good point on the incubation time of geese eggs. They seem to be about a month, defined in the ancient way as the 12th part of the year, or how long the Sun spends in each sign of the Zodiac. That would explain the role of a goose egg in Creation.

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