The symbolism and significance of the butterfly in ancient Egypt

Haynes, Dawn (2013-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2103.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Ancient Egyptian art and artefacts reveal a great deal about the culture and beliefs of this civilization. It was a civilization steeped in myth, symbolism and imagery. Tomb art has been extensively analysed and studied in an effort to reveal the essential way of life of the Ancient Egyptians, their religious beliefs and their philosophy of life. It is agreed that symbolism was an inherent part of their lives and beliefs. They looked to nature and observed the behaviour of animals, plants, the environment and also the weather to attempt to rationalize the world they lived in. Their close observation of behaviour patterns in nature resulted in a complex hierarchy of gods and goddesses who were accountable for successful living. Among the animal kingdom, certain animals gained such distinction that they were linked to certain deities. The scarab beetle is one such creature. Insects featured variously in their art, their myths and their belief in magic. While the scarab beetle is possibly the most documented of the insects, other insects such as the bee, the fly, the locust and the praying mantis have all been investigated. The butterfly features frequently in Ancient Egyptian art and yet has not been the subject of in-depth study. This investigation attempts to examine the symbolism and significance of the butterfly in Ancient Egypt. Richard Wilkinson (1994) has provided a framework for analysing symbolism in Egyptian art. He suggests nine aspects which can be examined in order to reveal symbolism. In this study, a selection of art from various dynasties is systematically examined according to these nine aspects. Each art work portrays the butterfly. Through this careful examination it is hoped that a clearer indication of the role of the butterfly in Ancient Egypt will be obtained. Having discussed all nine aspects for each of the sources, a discussion and various conclusions follow which look at the trends which appear. Certain patterns emerge which indicate that the butterfly does indeed play a significant role as a symbol in Ancient Egypt.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Antieke Egiptiese kuns en artefakte openbaar baie oor die kultuur en oortuigings van hierdie beskawing. Dit was 'n beskawing ryk aan mites, simboliek en beelde. Grafkuns is deeglik ontleed en bestudeer in 'n poging om die wesenlike lewenswyse van die antieke Egiptenare, hul godsdienstige oortuigings en lewensfilosofie te openbaar. Daar word saamgestem dat simboliek 'n inherente deel van hul lewens en oortuigings uitgemaak het. Hulle het op die natuur gesteun en die gedrag van diere, plante, die omgewing en ook die weer waargeneem om te probeer om hul lewenswêreld te verklaar. Hul noukeurige waarneming van natuurverskynsels het tot 'n komplekse hiërargie van gode en godinne gelei wat vir 'n suksesvolle lewe verantwoordelik was. Sekere diere in die diereryk was so besonders dat hulle met sekere gode en godinne verbind was. Die skarabee kewer is een so 'n skepsel. Insekte verskyn onder andere in hul kuns, hul mites en hul geloof in magie. Terwyl die skarabee moontlik die mees gedokumenteerde insek was, is ander insekte soos bye, vlieë, sprinkane, en die bidsprinkaan ook almal ondersoek. Die skoenlapper verskyn gereeld in die antieke Egiptiese kuns, maar was nog nie die onderwerp van 'n grondige studie nie. Hierdie studie poog om die simboliek en belangrikheid van die skoenlapper in antieke Egipte te ontleed. Richard Wilkinson (1994) verskaf 'n raamwerk vir die ontleding van simboliek in Egiptiese kuns. Hy het nege aspekte voorgestel wat bestudeer kan word om die simboliek te openbaar. In hierdie studie, word 'n seleksie kuns van verskillende dinastieë, sistematies aan die hand van dié nege aspekte ontleed. Elke kunswerk beeld die skoenlapper uit. Deur hierdie noukeurige ondersoek, word daar gehoop dat die rol van die skoenlapper in antieke Egipte duideliker voorskyn. Na die bespreking van al nege aspekte vir elk van die bronne, volg daar 'n bespreking met verskillende gevolgtrekkings wat kyk na die tendense wat voorkom. Sekere patrone kom te voorsyn wat daarop dui dat die skoenlapper wel 'n belangrike rol as 'n simbool in antieke Egipte gespeel het.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/79920
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