"Ocean', or The 'Great Green'

© Joan Ann Lansberry, January 2013

Glad for another idea for this year's sketchbook, for the Friday Illustration theme of 'ocean', I explored the Egyptian hieroglyphs for 'ocean': the "Wadj-wer', or 'Great Green', more exactly 'green-great body of water'.


Wadj @ Met

Wadj @ Brklyn
"In the hieroglyphic script a stylized papyrus stem wrote words for 'green' and 'flourishing' (in Egyptian wadj), and the sign was used as an amulet that was important enough to merit its own spell in the Book of the Dead. Wadj-amulets were worn by the living as well as the dead, as recent excavations by the British Museum at the town sites of Ashmunein and Balamun have shown. In iconography, the same shape occurs as a sceptre held by goddesses.

"Because of its height and dense growth in thickets, the plant is a haven for wildlife, especially birds. The wildlife and the luxurient greenery of the papyrus marshes made them the Egyptian equivalent of the European pastoral landscape in art and literature. They also had a religious dimension, symbolizing the emergence of the land from the primordial swamp, a site of primeval power." (From _Papyrus_, by R. B. Parkinson, Stephen Quirke, Ute Wartenberg, and Bridget Leach, page 11)

The bird glyph is a 'swallow' and means 'great'. The three zig-zags represent 'water', and may suggest FLOWING water. The 'canal' glyph means 'body of water'.

For the 'ocean' drawing, I actually combined two - views of the Red Sea, which the ancient Egyptians would have encountered on their travels to Punt. I also remembered seeing images of a very green ocean.