HEMU
Rudder, Steering Oar


   In most cultures, both the pilot and the steering mechanism of a boat takes on a deep and abiding significance; the whole world, or an entire state, or a single individual can be seen as a boat which the pilot or steering mechanism directs on a true (or misdirected as the case may be) course. The association of steering a boat with ruling a state is so ingrained in the Western imagination that the word "government" itself originally meant "piloting a boat." Hemu seems to have this significance, though its precise meaning is subject to dispute among Egyptologists. We do know that the Egyptians thought that the four corners of the universe were steering oars, which seems to imply that they thought of the entire universe as a boat and the four corners of the universe as cosmic guides. The most general significance of the hemu , then, is as the direction that the universe takes under the governance of the gods (or Maat.

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 4-8-97