Joseph Smith’s

Book of the Dead Hypocephalus




Book of the Dead Hypocephalus

Hypocephalus of Shishaq (Sheshonq) שִׁישַׁק

The above facsimile represents Michael Lyon’s masterful reconstruction of the Shishaq Hypocephalus. See M. Lyon, “Appreciating Hypocephali as Works of Art and Faith”, FARMS Book of Abraham Lecture Series, 1999. Numbers, corresponding to Book of Abraham Facsimile 2, have been inserted, and Figure 7 has been adjusted (slightly) to more authentically represent the Egyptian depiction. See other Hypocephali (below). As an artist and careful researcher, M. Lyon may have been a little conflicted: Should he be true to the Egyptian, or to the “Mormon” representation? There happens to be an ancient point of view that reconciles both.



Fig. 1. Kolob כּלב (after, like, as the heart, as the mind) or כּוֹל-לב (all heart, whole heart), signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God; which residence the Ah-meh-strah-ans called E-Beth-Ka. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time.  The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to an amah אַמָהarm - "a". (One Day To A Cubit) One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Ah-meh-strah-ans Oan or Ah-e, the temporal world after Zub-zool-eh (the earth as it was in the beginning); the whole earth in her paradisiacal glory being Beth-ku-ain-trieth [see Note א].

Note: In the Shishaq Hypocephalus, the ratio of the length of the rectangle containing Figures 1, 22 and 23, to its height, is roughly the ratio of the length of Aron ha-Brit (the Ark of the Covenant) to its height, or breadth. This ratio is close to φ, the Golden ratio. In the case of the frame surrounding Figures 1, 22 and 23, the approximation of φ is good to at least the rational Fibonacci approximation 3/2 = 1.5.

Fig. 2. Stands next to Kolob, called by the Ah-meh-strah-ans [see Note ב] Oliblish, which is the next grand governing creation near to the celestial or the place where God resides; holding the key of power also, pertaining to other mazalot מַזָלוׂת; as revealed from God to Avram, as he offered sacrifice upon an altar, which he had built unto the Eternal.

Note: The term “planet” derives from the Greek meaning “wanderer” i.e. “wandering stars”, “asteres planetai”. (Jude 1:13) This is not a word that Abram would have used. The expression “fixed planets” (Facsimile 2, Figure 5) appears to be something of an oxymormon, since planets by definition are not fixed. The Semitic term “mazalot”, “stars of fortune or fate - lucky stars, abodes of gods” is translated “planets” (KJV), but the word may also refer to “stars” or groups of stars that appear relatively “fixed”.

Fig. 2 characters

The characters to the left of the standing two-headed god read: “The name of this Mighty God”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4-5)

Fig. 3. This figure was appropriately copied from a Book of the Dead in Joseph Smith’s possession, and inserted in place of the lacuna (missing portion - upper right hand) of the Shishaq Hypocephalus. Compare with other hypocephali (below).

Papyrus Solar Ferry  Sun boat

Figure 3 Is made to represent God, sitting upon his throne, clothed with power and authority; with a crown of eternal light upon his head; representing also the grand Key-words of the Holy Priesthood, as revealed to ha-Adam in the Garden of Eden, as also to Shet, Noah, Malki-tsedeq, Avraham, and all to whom the Priesthood was revealed.

Divine bark

The characters to the left of the falcon-headed sun god seated on his papyrus barge, read: “Divine ship”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4,6)

Appropriately inserted immediately to the left of the papyrus solar ferry (Heb. “avarat-ham” עברת־חם), near Figure 2 in the Church published version, is a little libation stand holding the papyrus and lotus bouquet by Facsimile 2. Fig. 2. This symbol is interpreted to represent “Abraham in Egypt”. See Figure 10 and 3 of Facsimiles 1 and 3 respectively (adapted from the Hor Book of Breathings). Now look near the LDS addition Figure 2 (Facsimile 2). Note that the papyrus-lotus bouquet symbol does not appear in the original Shishaq Hypocephalus - nor does it appear near the two-headed god in other hypocephali (below). The introduction of the “Abraham in Egypt” papyrus - lotus bouquet, and adjacent “avarat-ham” solar ship (Figure 3) serves to “Abramize” the pagan hypocephalus in ways the Ah-meh-strah-an could relate to.

Fig. 4. Answers to the Hebrew word Raqiya רָקִיע, signifying expanse, or the firmament of the heavens [see Note ג]; also a numerical figure, in Ah-meh-strah-an signifying one thousand; answering to the measuring of the time of Oliblish, which is equal with Kolob in its revolution and in its measuring of time. See Ahmehstrahan Counting and Gematria Ahmehstrahan 1000

Fig. 5. Is called in Ah-meh-strah-an Enish-go-on-dosh; this is one of the governing mazalot also, and is said by the Ah-meh-strah-ans to be the Sun, and to borrow its light from Kolob through the medium of Kae-e-vanrash, which is the grand Key, or, in other words, the governing power, which governs fifteen other fixed mazalot or kokhavim כּוׂכָבִים, as also Floeese or the Moon, the Earth and the Sun in their annual revolutions.  This mazalah receives its power through the medium of Kli-flos-is-es, or Ha-kokhavim, the kokhavim represented by numbers 22 and 23, receiving light from the revolutions of Kolob.

Note: If the Sun is to be classed with “other fixed ... stars”, and if “the Moon, the Earth and the Sun” are understood to have “annual revolutions”, this is clearly not describing a geocentric model of the universe. According to the cosmological revelation that Abram received by way of Urim v'Tumim, the Earth is a member of an order of “planets” (mazalot, Abraham 3:9). The Earth is not perceived to be a planet (wandering star), or orbiting body in a geocentric model.

As for how the sun can be both a fixed star and a “planet”; it takes the sun more than two hundred million earth years to complete one orbit (planet like) around the great galactic center (one Galactic Year) in company with other “fixed stars”.

Joseph Smith’s Kirtland Egyptian Papers do not support the idea that Abraham’s cosmological revelation can be framed as a geocentric, astrological model. Joseph never said that the great governing center could be seen by unaided human eyes. In fact he suggested just the opposite. (Joseph Smith’s Grammar and Alphabet of the Ahmehstrahan Language 2nd Part, 5th Degree, “Flos isis”, pg. 25) See also TETRAGRAMMATON AND EARTH. 

Fig. 6. Represents this earth in her four quarters. The Ah-meh-strah-an name for this earth under the unified governing influence of interplanetary and interstellar agencies is similar in pronunciation to the sacred Tetragrammaton.

Fig. 7. Represents Virile God [see Note ד] sitting upon his throne, revealing through the heavens the grand Key-words of the Priesthood; as, also, the sign of Ruah ha-Qodesh unto Avram, in the form of a dove (adapted from the symbol of an erect, virile serpent with legs; consider B'sorot Matti 10:16).

Note: Modifying Figure 7 so that the Egyptian virility symbol discreetly appears to represent an arm, doesn’t necessarily change the intended meaning (from an Ah-meh-strah-an point of view). The Hebrew word for “arm”, z’roa” (זְרׂעַ), is akin to the word for “seed”, “zera” (זֶרַע). Consider Messianic Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 48:14; 52:10; 53:1, 10 .

Fig. 8. Contains writings that cannot be revealed unto the world; but is to be had in the Holy Temple of God.

Fig. 8 characters

The characters read: “may the soul of Osiris Shishaq (Sheshonq) be granted life”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4-5) The line may be interpreted to signify the birth/resurrection unto eternal lives of the exalted individual (e.g. Shishaq) as ha-Adam, analogues to the god Osiris, accompanied by his eternal companion Havah (Life), analogues to the throne goddess Isis; the details of which are presented in the Holy Temple. (Bereshit (Gen.) 3:22)

Fig. 9. Ought not to be revealed at the present time; possibly referring to mysteries of the “afterworld” (eternity, the cosmos), “and of his great waters” (possibly including ha-shamayim or the heavens, his great galactic arm, amah or z'roa - based on Joseph’s supplemented characters). Consider LDS Doctrine and Covenants 121:26-32

Fig. 9 characters

The characters read: “[God] of the hereafter, and of his great waters”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4-5)

Fig. 10. Also. Consider LDS Doctrine and Covenants 133:39-45

Fig. 10 characters

The characters read: “O Mighty God, Lord of heaven and earth”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4-5)

Fig. 11. Also.

Fig. 11 characters

The characters read: “O God of the Sleeping Ones from the time of [the creation]”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4-5)

If the world can find out these numbers [enumerated lines of characters and or gematria], so let it be.  Amen.

Lines 11,10,9 and 8 read in order: “O God of the Sleeping Ones from the time of the creation. O Mighty God, Lord of heaven and earth, of the hereafter, and of his great waters, may the soul of Osiris Shishaq (Sheshonq) be granted life.” (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pg. 5)

Figures 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, and 21, will be given in the own due time of the Eternal.

Fig. 21, 20, 19 characters

The characters associated with Figures 21, 20 and 19 read: “You will ever be as that God, the Busirian [Osiris]”. (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 4-5)

Fig. 18 characters

Figure 18, outer edge or rim, reads: “I am the Provider in the Sun Temple in Heliopolis. [I am] most exalted and very glorious. [I am] a virile bull without equal. [I am] the Mighty God in the Sun Temple in Heliopolis. <May the Osiris Shishaq [Sheshonq] live forever> with the Mighty God in Heliopolis.” <Missing text reconstruction based on British Museum hypocephali> (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 2, 4-5)

Fig. 17, 16 characters

Figures 17, 16 read: “May this tomb never be desecrated, and may this soul and its lord never be desecrated in the hereafter.” (Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pp. 2, 4-5)

Figures 12 through 15 are missing hieroglyphs. In the LDS publication of Facsimile 2, the missing hieroglyphs are filled in with hieratic characters copied from the Hor Book of Breathings - a separate funerary work, written in a different type of Egyptian. The presentation comes across, at first, as an unwitting mix of legitimate hieroglyphic text, and commandeered, upside-down, inverted, broken, and redundant Egyptian shorthand; put in place for the sake of appearance.

It would appear that the Prophet Joseph Smith did not read hieratic or hieroglyphic Egyptian as current scholars do. Its true that everything he learned about the Egyptian texts, he learned by way of inspiration/revelation. But notwithstanding the revelations, by the spring of 1842, in the midst of American Egyptomania, Times and Seasons readers were told they would have to wait for “the own due time of the Lord” to understand significant portions of the curious Facsimile 2.  The Prophet would not publish made-up meanings for the hieroglyphic text, or for the inserted hieratic characters with the object of catering to an inquiring public.

Recently, LDS scholars have tended to suggest that the Prophet was referring just to the original hieroglyphs of Figures 12 through 15 etc. and their meanings, as the things to be “given in the own due time of the Lord”. But its appears more reasonable, as one examines Joseph’s published Facsimile 2, that he was referring to both hieroglyphs and the supplemented hieratic characters. 

The idea that the Prophet would arbitrarily insert characters in place of missing hieroglyphs for the sake of appearance, becomes more disturbing the more one thinks about it. If the copied hieratic characters don’t make sense - maybe they aren’t being interpreting the way Ah-meh-strah-ans would? As for the missing hieroglyphs; hasn’t some knowledgeable person guessed what they might be, based on a study of other hypocephali?

The answer is yes! Having examined similar hieroglyphs on other hypocephali, LDS Egyptologist Val Sederholm, suggests that the missing hieroglyphs of figures 12 though 15 might read: “j nTr pfy 'A, 'nx m TAw, jw m mw: 'q r' jw [=r] sDm md.t=f. [Mj n] Wsjr”, which translates: “I invoke that special, particular, transcendent god, who lives by breathing, who negotiates the waters: So may Re [the sun god] descend to hear Osiris’ words. Come to Osiris Shoshenq.” Sederholm thus interprets the restored hieroglyphic text (Figures 12 through 15) to be a prayer for rescue - a prayer befitting the resurrection/deliverance of Osiris Hor/Abram as depicted in Facsimile 1. (Recovering the Missing Hieroglyphs on the Right Panels of LDS Book of Abraham Facsimile 2)

There is no question as to who arranged the hieratic writing, inserted in place of the lacunae (missing parts) of the Sheshonq Hypocephalus. The Prophet’s own diary records:

4 March 1842 - Friday

“Exhibiting the Book of Abraham, in the original [i.e. facsimiles, cut from more than one scroll, compiled with the English manuscript], To Bro Reuben Hadlock [Hedlock]. so that he might take the size of the several plates or cuts. & prepare the blocks for the Times & Seasons. & also gave instruction concerning the arrangement of the writing on the Large cut [hypocephalus -  Facsimile 2]. illustrating the principles of Astronomy... ” (Joseph Smith’s Illinois Journal - emphasis added)

Inserted Hieratic

Joseph Smith’s redacted hypocephalus accompanied the publication of the Book of Abraham in the Times and Seasons newspaper (15 March 1842).  The hypocephalus features hieratic characters copied from the Hor Book of Breathings inserted in place of missing hieroglyphs. Joseph Smith’s insertions are inverted, or upside-down relative to adjacent hieroglyphs. This raises several questions: If the sole purpose of inserting the characters was to give the appearance of completeness, why copy characters from a separate Egyptian scroll? Why not copy hieroglyphs from the hypocephalus itself? Could the selection and inversion of the hieratic characters be deliberate? Indeed the Prophet “gave instruction concerning the arrangement of the writing”. Is it possible then that the inserted hieratic writing was not intended to represent continuations of the hieroglyphic text? Could the hieratic characters be arranged and interpreted so as to mean something – perhaps relating to Abraham? Like the papyrus and lotus bouquet symbol added next to Figure 2, could the inserted hieratic characters be part of the effort to “Abramize” the pagan hypocephalus?  We are suggesting here that the Prophet was redacting and reinterpreting the hypocephalus Ah-meh-strah-an style. Many of the hieratic characters inserted in the hypocephalus were the same characters used to correlate with the Book of Abraham narrative (1835 manuscripts). These characters are to be interpreted in Ah-meh-strah-an transtextual ways. In other words Joseph Smith adapted the funerary facsimiles (including the hypocephalus), and reinterpreted them in ways that parallel an ancient Ah-meh-strah-an version of the Book of Abram.


Hor Book of Breathings lines 1 and 2

Hor Book of Breathings lines 3 and 4

Hieratic characters (lines 1 through 4) from the Hor Book of Breathings, transposed into hieroglyphic Egyptian. (Hugh Nibley, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri - An Egyptian Endowment, Chapter 2) Note: It is possible that the Hedlock carving of Facsimile 2 (printing block for the Times and Seasons newspaper), confuses a set of characters from line 1 of the Hor Book of Breathings, with a set of similar characters appearing in line 2. In other words, the apparent redundancy (seen on the upper right-hand rim of the hypocephalus) may not be.


For a translation of the Hor Book of Breathings, including parts inserted in the missing portions of the Shishaq Hypocephalus, see Hugh Nibley’s The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri - An Egyptian Endowment, Chapter 2.

For Ah-meh-strah-an styled interpretations of many of these characters, see Esoteric Egyptian in the Margins of the Book of Abraham and Esoteric Egyptian in Facsimile No. 2.

The above translation is given as far as we have any right to give at the present time.


א Joseph Smith, Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian (Ah-meh-strah-an) Language, 5th Degree pp. 5 - 6, Zub Zoal eh, Zab zoal; 4th Degree pg. 11, Zub-zaol-eh; 3rd Degree pg. 14, Auk eh, Zub-zool-eh; 2nd Degree pg. 18, Ahe, Zubzooleh; 1st Degree pg. 21, Oan, Zubzool eh; Second part 1st Degree pg. 33, Bethku-ain-tri-eth.

Earth symbol

Astronomical symbol of the Earth

The original explanation to Fig. 1 presents another term for the earth. This name is also found in Joseph Smith’s Egyptian (Ah-meh-strah-an) Alphabet and Grammar. The astronomical symbol of the earth (in her four quarters) is there associated with an anglicized name similar to the Tetragrammaton. The following explanation accompanies the name: “the earth under the government of another …” See Second part 5th Degree, pg. 24; Second part 4th Degree, pg. 27; Second part 3rd Degree, pg 29; Second part 2nd Degree, pg. 31; Second part 1st Degree, pg. 33.

Ahmehstrahan Cross of Adon

The Ah-meh-strah-an Cross of Adon, signifying the rule of the Eternal over the Earth and her divisions, as also the divine compass and square. The ancient letters of the sacred Tetragrammaton appearing in their respective quarter, are read in endless round. The hieroglyphs represent (1) the open hand and forearm, (2) a man with upraised arms in the act of prayerful praise or petition, (3) the nail or tent peg. This symbol can act as “and” - joining words as if by a nail. The hieroglyphs may be interpreted to represent, “He who will be and who ever was”. The “chariot wheel of tevel תֵבֵל (the world)” is symbolized with crossed spokes. The letter “tav” as in “tumeykha” (thy perfections), and “tevel” (world), was represented anciently by the mark of the cross. The letter “tet”, as in the Elohim saw their creation to be “tov” (good), was similarly represented anciently by the circle and mark crossing it in X fashion. The Ah-meh-strah-an association of the sacred name of the Eternal with the earth may relate to the fact that “yah.t”, an Egyptian word for “earth”, is somewhat similar to the divine Hebrew name. See Michael D. Rhodes, “The Joseph Smith Hypocephalus … Twenty Years Later”, pg. 8. See also TETRAGRAMMATON AND EARTH.

ב  Joseph Smith’s, Grammar and Alphabet of the Egyptian (Ah-meh-strah-an) Language, 5th Degree pg. 6 identifies “Egypt” as “Ah-meh-strah”. Does the word “Ah-meh-strah” relate to the Hebrew “matsor”, suggesting a “limiting boundary, or border”, a “defense”; as in the mighty Nile “streams of defense” (Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 19:6)? Is “Ah-meh-strah” related to “Mitsrayimah”, translated “Egypt” in the KJV? Is “Ah-meh-strah” related to “Ahme-as” which means “God without beginning or end”, according to the Prophet (pg. 33). Or does “Ah-meh-strah”relate to “amah - sitrah” (אמה־סתרה), meaning “forearm, mother-city” is “shelter, protection”? (Devarim (Deut) 32:37-38, Abraham 2:16)

The “Ah meh strah ans” are the unique “Egyptians” behind the esoteric interpretations of funerary facsimiles supplementing a later version of the Book of Abram.  The Ahmehstrahan society may be viewed as a partial, or preparatory fulfillment of Yesha’Yahu (Is.) 19:21.

ג  Formerly spelled “Raukeeyang”, Joseph Smith exhibits the Western Sephardic pronunciation of his Hebrew Instructor Joshua (James) Seixas. See J. Seixas, Manual Hebrew Grammar, pg.12. The case in which “raqiya” (firmament or expanse) is pronounced “rau-kee-ng” (Seixas) dates to Italian and Western Portuguese Jewish communities of the late 16th century CE. See Aron di Leone Leoni, “The Pronunciation of Hebrew in the Western Sephardic Settlements (16th – 20th Centuries). Second Part: The Pronunciation of the Consonant ‘Ayin, SEFARAD, Vol. 68.1, 2008, pp. 163-208.


Hypocephalus of Tasheritkhons

Hypocephalus of Tasheritkhons (circa 305 to 330 BCE), British Museum, London


Hypocephalus of Ta-khred-Khonsu

Hypocephalus of the Lady Ta-khred-Khonsu (M. Lyon, “Appreciating Hypocephali as Works of Art and Faith”, FARMS Book of Abraham Lecture Series, 1999)


Hypocephalus of Wst-wrt

Hypocephalus of the Lady Wst-wrt (M. Lyon, “Appreciating Hypocephali as Works of Art and Faith”, FARMS Book of Abraham Lecture Series, 1999)


Back to Abraham in Egypt and the Papyrus Solar Ferry

Back to Esoteric Egyptian in the Margins of the Book of Abraham

On to Esoteric Egyptian in Facsimile No. 2

Hebrew sense is preserved when read on Internet Explorer - e.g. below, my name in Hebrew should read right!

Vincent Coon וִינְסֶנט כּוּן Copyright 2016


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