Son of Ra

🏷  Egyptian hidden ruler pun · name   —   by Gerry · Dec 2019 · 825 words

The Egyptian royal title Son of Ra, written 𓅭𓇳 with a duck & sun glyph, means “secret custodian” if the glyphs are read differently.

Son of Ra

The title “Son of Ra” is written with the duck glyph 𓅭 G39 and the sun glyph 𓇳 N5. “Son of Ra” is one of the “great five names”. These are explained as many royal titles of just 1 person, but typically listed with different personal names, which would point to several persons.

All of these titles are in their official sense either unexplained or nonsensical. The title “Son of Ra” is supposed to emphasize the king’s role as a “representative of the solar god Ra”. But what exactly is this role? And why does it need a separate name as well? And why don’t all the other Egyptian gods have a representative role?

Personal name (nomen)


This was the name given at birth. The name itself was preceded by the title “Son of Ra”, written with the hieroglyph of a duck (za), a homonym for the word meaning “son” (za), adjacent to an image of the sun, a hieroglyph for the chief solar deity Ra. It was first introduced to the set of royal titles in the Fourth Dynasty and emphasizes the king’s role as a representative of the solar god Ra. For women who became pharaoh, the preceding title was interpreted as “daughter” also. Wikipedia: Ancient Egyptian royal titulary

At least Wikipedia admits that the title is not about ducks. Rather, the duck is a homonym for the word for “son”. This is how multiliteral hieroglyphs worked.

Why then is “son” a title? Maybe it isn’t. And maybe the “sun” glyph can be interpreted differently as well.

Egyptian root for “guarding” & “leading”

The general meaning of the root √zȝ / √sȝ is not “son”, but “something following behind” or “being protected behind”. The duck glyph was likely used because of the way a mother duck guards the ducklings, has them follow behind, and shields them with her wings.

Egyptian , = protect, guard, follow

𓂋𓐟𓏤 r sȝ : after — Egyptian (AED)

𓎃𓏤𓏛𓏥 : protection — Egyptian (AED)

𓀸𓄿𓅱𓀜 zȝw : to guard; to protect; to heed; to guard against — Egyptian (TLA)

𓊃𓅭𓄿𓏲𓀸𓀜 sȝw : guard, ward off, restrain, heed — Egyptian (AED)

𓀸𓄿𓅱𓏏𓂡𓏥 sȝwt : care, caution, custody, detention — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓅓𓐟𓏤 m sȝ : at the back of, following after, having charge of, wearing sandals — Egyptian (AED)

More importantly, √sȝ denotes any unit of subordinates that have to follow a leader: priests, troops, workers, cattle. In particular, one main administration unit in Ancient Egypt, the phyle, was called .

Egyptian , = troops, company, followers

𓎃𓀀𓏥 : phyle of priests, company, regiment of troops, troop of animals — Egyptian (AED)

𓎃𓀀𓏥 : troop (of soldiers, of workmen) — Egyptian (TLA)

And most importantly, as “Son of Ra” was a title, the word root √sȝ was used in titles, some of gods, but many clearly of humans. Since means “guarding” & “protecting”, it is in the title usually translated as “guardian”, i.e. someone who was in charge of some asset.

Egyptian , = guardian title

𓀸𓄿𓅱𓏏𓏭𓂡 zȝwt : guardian — Egyptian (TLA)

𓊃𓅭𓄿𓄿𓂡 sȝw : guardian, warden — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓀸𓅱 sȝw : guardian, warden — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓊃𓅭𓄿𓀸 sȝw : protector — Egyptian (Vygus)

𓀸𓄿𓇋𓇋𓏏𓆇𓆗 zȝy : protectress — Egyptian (TLA)

𓊃𓅭𓄿𓅱𓀸𓉒𓉒 zȝw-prwỉ-ḥ : guard of the two treasuries — Egyptian (TLA)

𓀸𓄿𓅱𓏏𓏭𓂡 saiti : watchman, guardian; divine custodians — Egyptian (Budge)

zȝw : guardian, warden, keeper — Egyptian (Vygus)

zȝw-zẖȝ : archivist; guardian of documents — Egyptian (TLA)

zȝw-šw : guard of the shadow — Egyptian (TLA)

We can thus surmise that duck glyph 𓅭 in the “Son of Ra” title really stands for the leadership title “guardian”, “warden”, “custodian”.

Sun glyph as for “sun” and ỉtn for “secret”

The sun glyph 𓇳 N5 is usually transcribed as and transliterated as ra or re, which means “sun” & “day”. There aren’t many related words, though some words for “gate” or “gated administration building” are somewhat homonymous.

However, there is a more spooky explanation for the sun glyph: The very same glyph 𓇳 N5 is also sometimes read as ỉtn, which means “disk”, because to humans the sun appears as a disk. And that same word ỉtn for “disk” also has the meaning of “secret”, presumably because a disk is also a shield.

Egyptian ỉtn = disk, mystery, secret

𓇋𓏏𓈖𓇳 ỉtn : sun, disk of the sun — Egyptian (AED)

𓇋𓏏𓈖𓏌𓅱𓂉𓏛 ỉtnw : secret, mystery — Egyptian (AED)

𓇋𓏏𓏌𓅱𓏛 ỉtnw : secret, mystery — Egyptian (AED)

𓇋𓏏𓈖𓏌𓏲𓍼𓏥 ỉtnw : obscurities, riddles, mysteries — Egyptian (Vygus)

Since spook aristocrats from later epochs used so many names that mean “secret ruler”, I would assume that the combination of 𓅭𓇳 duck & sun as “guardian” & “secret” means just that: The bearer of the title was a “secret ruler” himself. This would be evidence that cryptocracy as a rulership pattern existed already in Ancient Egypt.

There are other possible puns though. Perhaps future analysis of the other “great five names” will give us more hints.

🏷  Egyptian hidden ruler pun · name