Fertility scenes in Rock Art

rock art fertility ritual

Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rock Art

Deciphering rock art from Israel, israelrockart.com.

The fertility ritual depicted in this rock art is based on the Egyptian myth of Osiris and Isis. In the scene, sexual acts are symbolically reenacted as reproductive processes in men, animals, and the earth as a whole. Ancient Egyptians practiced a ceremony of spreading semen over land and water in order to stimulate land fertility.

The Egyptian Osiris Myth

The Egyptian myth tells that Osiris was killed by his brother Set who fancied the throne. Set chopped Osiris into fourteen pieces and threw them into the Nile River. Isis, Osiris’s wife, wandered the world and assembled Osiris’  body, and inserted his semen into her thus giving birth to Horus. The Egyptian Pyramid Texts unequivocally states: “Your sister Isis comes to you [Osiris] rejoicing for love of you. You have placed her on your phallus and your seed issues into her….”.

With his resurrection, Osiris became a symbol of the god of rebirth and regeneration. His death symbolized the annual drought in Egypt, while his rebirth coincided with the Nile River flooding signifying the agricultural magic of the country. To assure fertility, Pharaoh performed the masturbating ceremony at the riverbank, spreading his semen throughout the Nile River’s waters fertilizing the river banks.

Osiris and Isis are Celestial gods

The ancient Egyptians mapped the stars in different seasons and Osiris and Isis have been represented by  Orion and Canis Major constellations, as shown in Fig2. The Negev Desert rock art depicts an ibex followed by a dog representing the constellations Orion and Canis Major that announced by their arrival the fertile season.

Orion constellation as ibex rock art Negev Desert
Fig.2 Osiris and Isis symbols are derived from the constellations of Orion and Canis Major. The three-star above the boat identifies the Orion constellation. In the middle scene the constellation map of Orion and Canis Major. The rock art, on the right, shows the ibex and the dog, symbolically representing the Orion and Canis Major constellations.

The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rock Art

Fig.4 depicts the fertility ritual reenacting the Egyptian myth of Isis reviving Osiris. It records sexual attributes symbolizing the fertility of the land in conjunction with the appearance of the constellations Orion and Canis Major (Osiris and Isis) during the fertile season.

In this scene, the dog symbolically entices the ibex by sniffing him emulating the action of Isis reviving Osiris. The ibex’s shining horns indicate the intensity of this emotion, and at this moment, the ibex ejects a spray of semen. Notice the ibex phallus and the “wet” patch underneath. The engraved dots and patches, on top, symbolize the formation of rainstorms and clouds, which are symbols of the onset of winter, the fertility season.

fertility scene rock art negev desert
Fig.4 The sniffing dog scenes. The ibex and the dog represent the constellations of Orion and Canis Major, Negev Desert Rock Art.

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Bibliography

Ardakani   ( 2016)  An Evaluation of the Historical Importance of Fertility and Its Reflection in Ancient Mythology
BOTICA       (2013)     Weather, Agriculture, and religion in the Ancient Near East and in the Old Testament 


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