Fertility scenes in Rock Art

rockart sniffing dog fertility ritual

Fertility scenes in the Negev Desert Rock Art

The lack of water in the desert facilitated its dwellers to promote fertility rituals, see Sacred Marriage, imitating nature rejuvenation where earth and water played a major role. In our region, the Negev Desert they adopted from Egyptian myths, especially from the role of Osiris the Egyptian god of the underworld, Nile flood, and fertility. The fertility rites re-enacted, symbolically, sexual acts as reproductive processes of man, animals, and land. Spreading semen over land or water was a visual act practiced in the ancient world to promote fertility.

Osiris role in Egypt

According to the myth, 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 wife, and sister wandered the world collected Osiris body pieces, she put him back together and inserted his semen into her body giving birth to Horus.

Osiris became the god of the afterlife, the underworld, the dead, and the god of resurrection and regeneration. His death represented the yearly Egyptian drought, while his miraculous rebirth represented the Nile Valley flooding that yielded the agriculture magic in Egypt. To assure fertility Pharaohs would perform a ceremony to thank their main god Atum, which involved masturbating at the riverbank and making sure that his semen spread through the Nile River’s waters to fertilize the soil on the river shores. This was seen as a good omen and a sign of the continuing life cycle and fertility.

Osiris and Isis Celestial gods

The ancients Egyptians mapped the stars in different seasons and Osiris and Isis have been clearly identified in the sky scene, see Ibex and Rock Art,  represented by the Orion and Canis Major constellations as shown in Fig2.

Fig.2 Osiris and Isis the derived from the constellations of Orion and Canis Major

In the Negev Desert rock art, they portrayed as an ibex followed by a dog. The constellations rise in winter time announcing the fertile season arrival in Negev Desert. In Egypt’s Pyramid Texts is written: “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….”.

The sniffing dog scene in Negev Rock Art

Dogs navigate the world via their sensitive nose glands and their action of sniffing the crotch of human or animals is their way of gathering information. Their sensitive nose can even detect ovulation, a state of fertility, in animals and people. Even today, Australian farmers using the dog ability to detect ovulating cows.

fertlity scenes negev desert rock art

Fig.4 The Sniffing dog scene. The ibex and the dog symbolizing the appearance of Orion and Canis Major in the winter sky the fertile season, Negev Desert Rock Art.

Fig4 illustrates the sniffing dog scene derived from the sky image representing Osiris and Isis. Symbolically the dog entices the ibex to ejaculate sperm, notice the ibex phallus and the spray of semen underneath. This action emulates Isis reviving Osiris with their appearance in the winter sky. Above them, you can see the formation of rainstorms and clouds as illustrated by the patches and dots. The ibex in these illustrations, a symbol of Osiris the constellation Orion, which appears in the wintertime considered the fertile season in the desert, imitates the Egyptian Pharaoh actions during the Nile inundation, he assures land fertilization.

This ritual performed as a visual document for the desert dwellers assures the conditions to propagate fertility.  A mixture of Egyptian myth combined with the appearance of Osiris in the winter sky made the scene believable.  The adaptation of the dog behavior further intensified the earthly drama as the gods above charted the way. This engraving act visually records an imaginative ritual for desert generations to induce land fertility with the gods blessing.

More deciphering, in a new book Rock Art in Israel, available online.

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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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