Pesesh-Kef Knife

Pesesh-Kef Knife
Pre-dynastic Period, Naqada II, ca. 4000 BCE
Purchased in Cairo, 1920, OIM 11251
Photo ©Joan Ann Lansberry, 2010

(From info card)
"The knife was perhaps originally associated with cutting umblical cords at birth. Examples of such knives have been found in burials rather than in embalmer's workshops, which may indicate that the knife was associated with rejuvenation."

(From _The PSŠ-KF and the 'Opening of the Mouth' Ceremony: a Ritual of Birth and Rebirth_, by Ann Macy Roth, Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 78, 1992):
"In archaelogical and textual evidence alike, the psš-kf knife consistently occurs as part of the same collection of objects. In the Pyramid Texts, these objects are presented in a sequence that is the earliest attested form of the 'opening of the mouth' ceremony. The speeches accompanying the presentations suggest that the psš-kf and the objects associated with it were the equipment for a ritual mimicking birth and childhood, and that the role of the psš-kf in this process was to cut the umblical cord of a newborn baby."

"The umblical cord as the snake of chaos" (called either Apophis or Apep)
"Stricker has equated the umblical cord with Apophis, the snake-formed god of chaos and non-existence. In order for a potential human being to come into existence, he must defeat the undifferentiated non-existence that Apophis represents. To change the amorphous non-existent into something that exists, according to Egyptian conception of existence, the non-existent must be differentiated and made specific. In birth, this differentiation is accomplished by cutting the umbilical cord that attaches the newborn child to the primeval waters of the womb, thus making him something separate and specific. The creation of the child thus mimics the creation of the world, which is accomplished daily by cutting the snake's body of Apophis in two.

"In vignettes attached to Chapters 7, 15B and 39 of the Book of the Dead, the deceased is shown spearing Apophis, sometimes with a stick that is forked at the tip. This action is comparable to that of the god Seth, who stands at the prow of the sun bark and attacks the Apophis snake every morning so that the sun can rise (be born). Seth's role as a divider of the undifferentiated (and hence uncreated and chaotic) snake, Apophis, into two different (and therefore extant) parts may be reflected by his forked tail. The fork of the psš-kf thus acquires still another explanation: a forked stick is used to attack snakes, and the umblical cord represents a snake, the primeval snake of chaos, which must be divided in order for creation (birth) to occur. Like the psš-kf, the forked stick is not only the divider, but is itself divided, as a symbolic represention of its function."