PER-NU
PER-NESER
Lower Egyptian Shrine


   The two shrines in Egypt, Per-wer ("Great House"), the shrine of Upper Egypt, and Per-nu (or Per-neser: "Flame House"), the shrine of lower Egypt, had universal and complex meanings throughout Egypt. Both were originary shrines: Per-wer was the shrine of Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of southern (Upper) Egypt at the beginning of Egyptian civilization; the serpent goddess, Wadjet, had his shrine, Per-nu, in northern (Lower) Egypt at the beginning of Egyptian civilization in the north. Eventually Nekhbet would become the principle goddess of Upper Egypt, and Wadjet the principle goddess of Lower Egypt, and their shrines came to represent the southern and northern parts of Egypt respectively. The symbolic meaning, then, of Per-nu is "the whole of Lower Egypt"; when combined with Per-wer, the symbols represent the unified kingdom of Egypt.

  However, the shrines took on additional meanings. Per-wer, for instance, came to symbolize heaven and divinity; most Egyptian coffins, therefore, are designed in the shape of Per-wer. Per-nu came to be associated with dwellings of the gods. Corpses were often equipped with a series of Per-nu vessels, each of which contained a figure that would help accomplish whatever is asked of the dead soul in the afterlife. In the New Kingdom, the gods of the Underworld live in Per-nu shaped dwellings. Osiris, the god who arose from the dead, is depicted as being buried in a Per-nu shrine; therefore, the shrine comes to be associated with resurrection and the renewal of life. It is this association with the resurrection of Osiris that led northern Egyptians to design their coffins in the shape of a Per-nu. Akhnaten was buried in a Per-nu coffin; the most important shrine in Tutankhamen's tomb is a Per-nu shrine.

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1997, Richard Hooker
Updated 4-8-97