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Swallow


   The swallow was especially meaningful to the Egyptians; in hieroglyphic script, the swallow sign means "great" (wer ). The earliest Egyptians believed that the stars of the sky were swallows; before they had become swallows, they were originally the souls of human beings. So by the time of the Middle and New Kingdoms, the swallow came to represent the soul after death; this soul had the power to transform itself into anything it pleased. Therefore, the swallow also came to represent this ability of the soul to rejoin the living in any form and rejoin the cycles of life. Funeral mounds, therefore, are universally depicted with a swallow at the doorway. Also, a swallow very frequently adorns the boat of Re, particularly when that boat is passing through the underworld, as it is in this picture. Part of the reason for this is associational; swallows are typically regarded as "day-greeters" since they sing at dawn. But they also represent renewal and transformation in general, which would explain their presence at the front of the solar barque.

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 4-8-97