HENU
Praise


   This is a wonderful gesture, a kind of sneak peek back into the life of Egyptians. The ceremonies of religious worship can be vividly reconstructed because of Egyptian hieroglyphics; this particular pose represents the final gestures involved in the complex series of gestures Egyptians used to worship their gods. The worshipper seems to sit on one knee throughout the ceremony; after a series of gestures, the worshipper then slowly struck his or her chest with closed fists. As one fist struck the chest, the other would be flung behind the back with the elbow bent. What this gesture means precisely is unclear, but one might surmise that a pantomime of beating one's chest indicates some level of sorrow, guilt, or unworthiness. This final gesture in Egyptian worship, henu, would symbolize in hieroglyphics and art throughout Egyptian history the act of worshipping the gods. Several things are depicted as deserving this worship: gods, the resurrected king, and the dawning of the sun. In all of these, this gesture embodies the proper relation or the worshipper to the figure he's praising.

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 4-8-97