Abydos and the Abydonian People

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The Pyramid of Abydos

Summary

Abydos was the first planet visited after Daniel Jackson unlocked the secrets of the Stargate (Stargate: The Movie) and became his new home after he helped the people gain their freedom from the Goa'uld System Lord Ra and married the native Sha're. Abydos and the Abydonians were all destroyed by Anubis, but those Abydonians who died in that struggle were helped to ascend to a higher plane of existence by Oma Desala. (7.22 "Full Circle")

Factoids

  • Names and Designations: Abydos
  • Number of Suns: 1
  • Number of Moons: 3
  • Source of Address: Stargate's coverstone found in Giza, Egypt
  • Introduced in Episode: Stargate: The Movie
  • Earth Cultural/Technological Equivalent: Ancient Egypt
  • Main Interest: Naquadah mines; home of Daniel Jackson's adopted people
  • Influenced/Dominated by: Goa'uld System Lord Ra
  • History of Stargate: One of the closest to Earth

Stargate Glyphs

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Stargate References

Stargate: The Movie

The story of Abydos begins in Stargate The Movie. "A million years into the sky is Ra, sun god, sealed and buried for all time." (translated from the Giza coverstone by Dr. Daniel Jackson).

Abydos is the closest planet to Earth on the Stargate network, one of only two planets for which the Project Giza (later Stargate Command) dialing computer could achieve a lock without adjusting for the effects of stellar drift. The world is desert, with a 36-hour day and fierce sandstorms. The planet has vast deposits of naquadah.

The Abydos Stargate is concealed within a vast pyramid identical to those found at Giza in Egypt. Abydos was ruled by an alien parasite which had infested the body of a young Earth boy eight millennia before Christ and assumed the identity of the Sun God Ra. The alien was evil and dissolute, enslaving the humans who had been sent through the Stargate to work his vast naquadah mines and ruling through fear.

In contrast to the 'god' they so feared, the Abydonian people were primitive, maintaining a lifestyle and a language long dead on Earth. Their leader is a man called Kasuf, whose children were Skaara and Sha'uri [Sha're]. When Dr. Daniel Jackson, Col Jack O'Neill, Maj. Kawalsky and Sgt. Brown found the slaves working the vast mine on Abydos, Kasuf and his people took them back to their city. Daniel bore a gold locket which was engraved with the Eye Of Ra, the same Eye which stood as a constant reminder of their god in the city. While Skaara exercised his curiosity on O'Neill, Kasuf gifted Daniel with his daugher Sha'uri as a bride, believing he had come from Ra.

The Abydonians were patriarchal, close-knit and caring in their extended families, the father the head of his family in a continuation of old traditions which had never been impacted by exposure to other cultures. The people were hardy to survive in the harsh desert conditions, domesticating mastadges as beasts of burden and making use of anything edible, despite how ugly it might look to Earth eyes.

Though Daniel soon discovered that writing was forbidden to the people by Ra, who feared the Earth uprising which overthrew him would be repeated. Despite this, Sha'uri knew hieroglyphs and helped Daniel to learn to speak the ancient Egyptian language. Sha'uri, learning from Daniel the true history of her people, later told Skaara and the other Abydonian boys that they could no longer live as slaves and thus began the rebellion. The fear and awe with which Skaara and the boys react to O'Neill's lighter is a clear metaphor for how ingnorant and technologically infantile Ra keeps his slaves. Yet later they are shown to attain proficiency with their automatic weapons.

O'Neill's men were captured by guards who bore advanced energy weapons and wore armour on their heads which resembled the heads and beaks of birds - falcons which represented Horus, 'he who is above'. These Horus guards were human but in Stargate SG-1 [Children of the Gods] they became Jaffa, who had belly pouches in which they carried Goa'uld symbiotes. Daniel was killed and later resuscitated by Ra, discovering that the sarcophagus had increcible restorative powers and that the alien parasite had chosen humans because their bodies were so easy to repair. The parasite bore greater resemblance to the Asgard than to the snake-like symbiotes of the Goa'uld of the TV series, something which has never been explained. Despite his many technological advancements, from staff weapons to death gliders, and the vast pyramid-like spaceship, Ra lived lavishly as an ancient Pharaoh would have, waited on by his courtiers. He was surrounded by children and kept up the tradition of reverence for cats.

After rescuing O'Neill, Daniel and Kawalsky from Ra, Skaara, Sha'uri and the other rebels hid them in caves from which they launched guerilla attacks on Ra's forces. It was when the fearful and superstitious Kasuf learned that the falcon-headed guards were men like himself that he led his people in the vast uprising against Ra, overthrowing the heavily armed Horus guards by sheer determination and weight of numbers whilst Sha'uri, Daniel and O'Neill were inside the great pyramid facing Ra's First Prime [Children of the Gods] and then Ra himself.

Ultimately, Daniel chose to remain behind on Abydos to be with his wife Sha'uri and to experience first-hand the ancient culture and writing system which had so consumed him on Earth. Aware of Jack's orders to neutralise the potential threat to Earth, he buried the Stargate.

Children of the Gods

After the Stargate facility was attacked by an alien with glowing eyes, O'Neill and his men were interrogated and forced to make contact again with Daniel Jackson. During his year with the people of Abydos, Daniel learned many secrets, from the grinding of his own flour to the location of a cartouche, a map of a vast network of Stargates. It was his discovery of this cartouche which made the Stargate programme viable. Carter was able to use this to factor into the dialling computer the necessary calculations to adjust for stellar drift, which opened up the network of Stargates to them. Daniel had unburied the Stargate to experiment with it, but Skaara and the Abydonian boys had been guarding it continuously.

When the mysterious alien attacked Abydos and kidnapped Sha'uri and Skaara, O'Neill made it clear to Daniel that he would be taken back through the Stargate this time. He saw Daniel's farewell to his extended family and Daniel's order to bury the gate and to keep it buried until a year had passed, learning later from his friend that he was seen as more than a hero by the people, that he was a god to them. The simplicity of the Abydonian lifestyle is emphasised by Daniel as he talks of the chores the other people took so much for granted.

The language spoken by the Abydonians became the language common to the Jaffa and to the Goa'uld. During his year on Abydos, Daniel had gained great fluency in the language and had also taught English to his family.

Secrets

This episode confirmed that the people of Abydos were nomadic. They were portrayed living in tents surrounding the great pyramid in this subsequent episodes, though there was no logical explanation ever given for why they would abandon their ancient city for such a rough and difficult lifestyle. Kasuf unburied the Stargate as Daniel had ordered and he and Teal'c went through. They found Sha'uri there with her father, heavily preganant with Apophis' child. Her symbiote Amaunet slept, fiving control to Sha'uri temporarily for fear the child would be born stillborn.

The simple nature of the people was emphasised, with Daniel explaining the symbiote as a demon within Sha'uri, and Kasuf exerting his authority as a father over Sha'uri. It was clear that she felt herself subordinate also to Daniel as her husband, obedient and submissive to them both, though he urged her to make her own choice about accompanying him back to Earth so Amaunet could be captured and questioned. Daniel himself paid at least lip service to Kasuf's status as patriarch, kneeling to him, and referring to him as "Good Father" while Kasuf called him "Good Son".

Ra's pre-eminence was explained in the series - he was the Supreme System Lord among the Goa'uld, an enemy of Apophis, the husband of Hathor and the father of Heru-ur, who came to Abydos in search of Amaunet. Daniel and Teal'c escaped with Sha'uri to the same caves they had hidden in during the rebellion against Ra, and Daniel safely delivered the baby boy, Apophis' son. Teal'c fooled Amaunet into believing he was a Horus guard and that Heru-ur had taken the boy from her. Daniel took him to Kasuf to keep him safe. He and the rest of SG-1 barely evaded capture by first Heru-ur and then Apophis, who had come for his queen.

It was not made clear if the Abydos gate was again buried but as Heru-ur had come in his ship, it was matterless. Inexplicably, neither Heru-ur nor Apophis chose to conquer Abydos and take for themselves its vast naquadah deposits, nor did the SGC apparently set up a mining operation.

Forever In A Day

The consequences of leaving the gate unburied come home to roost when Amaunet uses the Stargate to kidnap the Abydonian people and retrieve her son from Kasuf in order to hide him at the legendary Kheb. This episode explored the funerary rites of the Abydonian people when Daniel returned to Kasuf to bury Sha'uri in his dream. After her body, wrapped in bandages, is laid into a grave, Kasuf said a prayer for her. Then, speaking in the Abydonian/Goa'uld/Jaffa/Ancient Egyptian language, Daniel conducted an ancient rite in which Sha'uri's heart was weighed against a feather.

DANIEL:
I speak for Sha're, who can no longer speak for herself. I have spoken no lies, nor acted with deceit. I was once possessed by a demon who did these things against my will. The demon is gone and now I am without sin. Grant me a place in your blessed dwelling.

DANIEL places a white feather on one side of the scales.

DANIEL:
If my heart weighs more than a feather my soul still contains sin. If not, may my soul join the god. KASUF and the Abydonians raises their hands heavenward. DANIEL gets to his feet.

DANIEL:
By the trial of the Great Scales, thy heart is light…thy soul has been found true.

Ancient Egyptians believed the personality or being was made up of several different parts with the last part being the kha or mortal body. In a sense Ancient Egyptians believed that a person did not have one afterlife but several since all the constitute parts were engaged in different activities in the afterlife. It is hard to determine exactly the meaning or significance of some parts because they are not refered to that often in funerary texts. The different parts were the ba, akh, ka, ren, khaibit, heart (ib).

The ka is refered to as the spiritual double of a person. It lingered in the tomb and inhabited the body and statues made to resemble the body. The ba or soul, was a human-headed hawk that brought food and drink to the body. The ba-soul traveled with Re by night. Khaibit was the shadow. There are very few references to explain this Ancient Eygptian concept. The akh was the bit of the soul that was transfigured upon death. It would represent the intellect and all that was good in the deceased person. It inhabited the Sahu, the spiritual body, and together they lived in heaven and dwelled with the Gods. It was believed the akh could influence the living. The ib or heart was the source of good and evil within a person. It was a person's conscience.

The heart would be judged by Maat upon death to decide if a person was worthy of entering the afterlife. The moment of death was when the weighing of the heart occured. The good become transfigured into the akh. The bad undergo a second death and cease to be when Ammut eats their hearts. To the ancient Egyptian if the heart is destroyed so too is the person and all parts of their soul. Ren was the true name of an individual. Those who knew a person's true name could destroy him. Their true name was something Egyptians kept as a closely guarded secret.

In Egyptian funerary rites/mythology, the gods of the dead performed the "weighing of the heart" ceremony to judge whether the person's earthly deeds were virtuous. The weighing of the heart was overseen by the jackal-headed god Anubis, and the judgement was recorded by Thoth, the god of writing.

Forty-two gods listened to the confessions of the deceased who claimed to be innocent of crimes against the divine and human social order. The person’s heart was then placed on a scale, counterbalanced by a feather that represented Maat, the goddess of truth and justice. If the heart was equal in weight to the feather, the person was justified and achieved immortality. If not, it was devoured by the goddess Amemet. This meant that the person would not survive in the afterlife. When a pharaoh passed the test, he became one with the god Osiris. He then travelled through the underworld on a solar bark, accompanied by the gods, to reach paradise and attain everlasting life.

Again, the reverence in which Daniel is held by the Abydonians is confirmed by Kasuf, who comes to Daniel in his dream to insist that he continue on his journeys through the Stargate. He is seen as a protector of the Abydonians.

Daniel speaks about Sha'uri to Carter, talking about how a simple ohject like a pen was a wonder to her.

Pretense / Absolute Power

Kasuf summons Daniel and SG-1 back to Abydos to witness a spectacular phemomenon, a cyclone which calls Daniel's name. Jack jokes to Kasuf that it isn't a burning bush and Kasuf is stymied, replying that he has seen many bushes burning. The cyclone is very impressive, again tapping into the awe and reverence with which Kasuf and the others regard the natural world. In Season 3's Pretense, Skaara talks about the relationship the Abydonians have with their animals:

SKAARA:
We care for our animals. We worship them, we thank them for the gifts they give us.

The animals the Ancient Egyptians considered sacred represented one of their gods or goddesses. They believed that particular species were especially adored by each god/goddess, and that by honoring that animal, they would please the deity. The reason that animals appear regularly in ancient Egyptian religion is because they worshipped gods and goddesses which had an intimate relationship with the animal world, not because the animals by themselves were holy.

The belief that animals share the afterlife with humans resulted in the burial of many animals in family tombs. Some were buried at the time of their natural death because of their special significance, but many were killed and buried as part of funerary ritual or worship activities. It was thought that some deities represented themselves on earth in the form of a single representative of a specific species. The animal believed to be the incarnation of the god or goddess lived a pampered life in and near the temples and religious centers. Upon the animal's death, another young replacement was found to represent the deity.

The human race was not considered superior to the animal world. Both had been created by the gods to share the earth as partners. These attitudes toward animals are reflected not only in the Egyptian religious beliefs, but also in the general attitudes toward the animal kingdom at large.

These animals were considered especially sacred:

  • cat - The male cat had religious connections with Ra. Kittens were specifically reared for sacrificial/worship uses (see link below).
  • cattle - Beef was often used as a sacrificial offering to various deities.
  • scarab beetle - The emblem of a specific goddess, the scarab beetle was associated with the daily birth of the sun, and credited with spontaneous generation of its young. Because of its sacred status, it was widely represented in art.

Other animals with religious significance include: ibises, baboons, rams, dogs, shrews, mongooses, snakes, fishes, beetles, gazelles, and lions

Though Skaara was freed of his symbiote Klorel, there is no explanation of his absence from Abydos during Absolute Power. He is simply not there, though once again, all the Abydonians are living in tents near the great pyramid and the Stargate.

Full Circle

Here the Abydonians are not merely nomadic, but once again presented as well-armed rebels. After being ignored by the Goa'uld System Lords, who've failed for six years to take an interest in Abydos' vast naquadah deposits or Ra's riches, suddenly they're menaced by the ubiquitous Anubis in hot pursuit of the fabled Eye Of Ra. Daniel, in his ascended state, is firmly elevated to godhood by the worshipful Abydonians, who will fight alonside SG-1 against Anubis in his name. The Abydonians are suddenly represented by a circle of female elders, with Kasuf's absence explained by his taking the women and children to shelter in the caves the rebels fought from in the movie.

Skaara is leading the Abydonian boys in the fight, more of a man now than a boy, betrothed and seeking Jack's attendance at his wedding. Skaara is tragically killed during the attack by Anubis' ground troops, ascending after his death. He is joined by all the Abydonian rebels killed in the battle and then later by those outside in the tents, killed by the test-firing of Anubis' new super-wepaon. When SG-1 are able to return to Abydos, Skaara tells them that everyone was killed in the blast which destroyed the pyramid and that one called Oma did this.

Contrast this with Daniel's experience of ascension. Oma would not interfere and he had to ascend on his own. He then discovered that Oma was gathering a great force of disciples, teaching that it was their duty to help the dying to ascend and join them on the great path. It seems she broke her own rule and ascended the innocent Abydonians en masse. Though this was a humanitarian gesture, it was also a smart move on Oma Desala's part. The Ancient Egyptians and thus the Abydonians believed that death was simply a temporary interruption, rather than complete cessation, of life, and that eternal life could be ensured by means like piety to the gods, preservation of the physical form through mummification, and the provision of statuary and other funerary equipment. Each human consisted of the physical body, the 'ka', the 'ba', and the 'akh'. The Name and Shadow were also living entities. To enjoy the afterlife, all these elements had to be sustained and protected from harm.

All their funerary rites, from mummification to entombment, were symbolic of magical protection, sustenance and the rebirth of the dead. Ascension would have been proof to them that their belief in good and evil, in justice, their worship of the natural world during life, was rewarded in the after-life. The cycles of human life, rebirth, and afterlife mirrored the reproductive cycles that surrounded them in the natural world. After death, the Egyptians looked forward to continuing their daily lives as an invisible spirit among their descendents on Earth in Egypt, enjoying all the pleasures of life with none of its pain or hardships.

This vision is vividly depicted in the sculptures, reliefs, and wall paintings of Egyptian tombs, with the deceased portrayed in the way he or she wished to remain forever, accompanied by images of family and servants. These forms of art not only reflect the Egyptians' love of life but by their very presence made the afterlife a reality. Oma Desala granted the people exactly this and in return no doubt gained many devout followers who would believe passionately in her ideals.

Gallery

View outside temple
Temple stairs
Sun over the desert
Stargate in temple
Cartouche Room
Cartouche Wall
Catacomb under temple
Storage room entry for Eye of Ra
Destruction of Abydos

Episodes

Related Characters

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Further Reading


--DeeKayP 10:20, 15 Jun 2004 (PDT)