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The Alchemical Secrets Hidden in Egyptian Decan Stars

Updated: Feb 18

Astronomy and alchemy are two ancient practices that have been intertwined throughout history. Both practices were concerned with understanding the universe and the natural world, and both were seen as ways to gain insight into the mysteries of life.

Ancient Egyptian Alchemy

In the shadowy dawn of time, when the pyramids were but whispers in the desert winds, Egyptian astronomy stirred. Its origins trace back to the Predynastic Period, a primordial canvas where cosmic secrets began to unfold. In the 5th millennium BCE, at the mystical stone circles of Nabta Playa, celestial alignments whispered to the ancients. These monolithic sentinels may have marked time, their silent stones attuned to the heavens.

As the 3rd millennium BCE began, the Egyptian calendar—its 365-day rhythm—already wove the fabric of existence. Stars became guides, their dance determining the annual flood of the Nile—a life-giving pulse for the land of pharaohs. In this cosmic ballet, ancient Egypt gazed upward, seeking answers etched in constellations. And so, the stardust of antiquity settled upon the Nile’s banks, birthing a legacy that would span millennia.

Egyptian Astronomy: Unveiling the Cosmic Tapestry

In ancient Egypt, the world below was ruled by the heavens above. The year consisted of three seasons of 120 days each, plus an intercalary month of five epagomenal days treated as outside of the year proper. Each season was divided into four months of 30 days. These twelve months were initially numbered within each season but came to also be known by the names of their principal festivals. Each month was divided into three 10-day periods known as decans or decades.

Each decan was ruled by a different group of stars. There were 36 groups of stars used in ancient Egyptian astronomy to divide the 360-degree ecliptic into 36 parts of 10 degrees each. Each decan star or set of stars would rise in the east before sunrise. After a 10-day period this decan would no longer be the last to rise. It would become the second to last to rise and a new decan would be the last to rise for another 10-day period. During the course of one night, twelve decans would be visible to represent the twelve hours. After 36 cycles or 360 days, another decan star set was added consisting of 5 days, for the epagomenal days.

The Decan Star List

Egyptian Decan Star List
36 decans each with 10 days; 37th decan with 5 days not shown.

The Origins of Egyptian Science and "Alchemy"

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “al-kīmiyāʾ” may be derived from the Greek “khēmeia,” which is derived from the ancient Egyptian name of Egypt, “khmt” or “kmt," meaning "the black land." Therefore, alchemy was understood by the Greeks to be an Egyptian science. This science was developed from studying the forces of nature, which were personified as ancient Egyptian deities called the Neteru. Once they understood the nature of the Neteru, the ancient Egyptians were able to have a deep understanding of chemistry and pharmacology. The modern word, chemistry, is actually derived from the word, alchemy.

The ancient Egyptians understood that disease could be treated by substances from the earth, recognized the healing potential in massage and aromas, had male and female doctors who specialized in certain specific areas, and understood the importance of cleanliness in treating patients. They recorded their knowledge in a number of medical papyri. These papyri give details on disease, diagnosis, and remedies of disease, which include folk remedies, surgery, and magical incantations.

The Ebers Papyrus
The Ebers Papyrus

The most famous of these papyri are the Ebers Papyrus and the Edwin Smith Papyrus. The Ebers Papyrus is one of the oldest known medical works, dating back to about 1550 BCE. It contains 700 magical formulas and folk remedies meant to cure afflictions ranging from crocodile bite to toenail pain and to rid the house of such pests as flies, rats, and scorpions. The scroll is over 20 meters long and is one of the most important medical papyri discovered to date.

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is believed to be a copy of a work dating from around 3000 BCE and is the oldest known surgical treatise on trauma. The physician in the book uses copper and sodium salts for an astringent. It begins with clinical cases of head injuries and works systematically down the body, describing in detail examination, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis in each case. The papyrus is named after Edwin Smith, who bought it in 1862 but was thought to have been originally called, "The Secret Book of the Physicians."

In ancient Egypt, scientific knowledge primarily revolved around medical and surgical practices derived from keen observations of the natural world. However, a significant shift occurred when the decans—small constellations—became integrated into the Hellenistic astrological system. This synthesis combined elements from both Egypt and Mesopotamia. The decans were believed to exert influence over human health through the bonds of cosmic sympathy—the notion that celestial bodies impacted life in various ways. Consequently, Egyptian science took on a new dimension: alchemy.

The Decans in the Temple of Hathor at Dendera

Decan stars in the Temple of Hathor in Dendera
Decan stars in the Temple of Hathor in Dendera

The Hellenistic alchemists believed that the stars and planets had an influence on the properties of metals and other substances, and they often used astrological symbols in their work. Many alchemical texts include detailed instructions for conducting alchemical operations at specific astrological times and configurations, which were thought to enhance the efficacy of the alchemical process.

We see in some ancient Egyptian temples that alchemical elements were associated with certain decan stars. One such place is the the temple of Hathor in Dendera which was home to the Dendera Zodiac, a circular map of the sky, which contains images of Taurus (the bull) and Libra (the scales) among other constellations and zodiac signs. The Dendera Zodiac is considered to be one of the oldest known representations of the zodiac, and it is believed to have been used as a basis for later astronomy systems.

The image above depicts three decan stars: a man with outstretched arms, a white snake, and a black snake. Their names are inscribed in blocks above, while their associated elements are written in blocks below. Interestingly, all three of these specific decans are linked to gold, as indicated by the last hieroglyph in the lower block, which ends with the symbol for gold and three dots representing “nuggets.”

Egyptian Hieroglyph for Gold
Nebu: Gold

The Egyptian symbol for gold, known as Nebu, portrays a golden collar with ends hanging off the sides and seven spines dangling from the middle. Scenes from the Old Kingdom show dwarfs engaged in metalworking gold and “stringing the pearls of gold.”

At the Temple of Hathor in Dendera, the decan names are inscribed in Ptolemaic script, along with some hieroglyphs above and below the decan god. Unlike early Egyptian hieroglyphs, which had established meanings reflecting ancient Egyptian ideas (some dating back to the third millennium BCE), Ptolemaic hieroglyphs introduced new readings, making them distinct from earlier forms. These changes allowed for greater flexibility in shaping the script, a transformation evident within the Temple of Dendera.

The Decan Stars and their Associated Elements

Decan stars and elements
Decan Stars and Elements

The Cosmic Threads Unraveled

In the alchemical labyrinth, where stars whispered secrets and gods danced in celestial patterns, the decans emerged as cosmic weavers. These ancient Egyptian markers of time wove their threads through the fabric of existence, measuring moments and linking earthly realms to celestial spheres.

Each decan bore its own cryptic language—a lexicon of symbols, gods, and hidden meanings. As alchemists stirred their crucibles and sought the philosopher’s stone, they invoked the decans. For within their enigmatic dance lay the promise of transformation: lead to gold, base to sublime.

And so, across epochs, the decans endured—a bridge between earthly dust and cosmic fire. Their legacy persists, etching stardust into alchemical scrolls, urging us to decipher their celestial script. As astronomers gaze skyward, as astrologers chart destinies, and as seekers delve into the alchemical abyss, the decans whisper: “Unlock the secrets of time, and the universe shall yield its gold.”

In this cosmic dance, the past converges with the present, and the alchemical quest endures—an eternal spiral toward enlightenment.


About the Author

Mohammad Awyan Archaeo-Acoustics & Sound Healing Egypt

Amanda is a double board-certified physician who has been practicing Internal and Lifestyle medicine for over 15 years. She is passionate about supporting non-pharmacologic lifestyle changes to reverse illness and improve wellbeing. Amanda is also a Chopra certified meditation coach and provides spiritual retreats around the world.

Amanda is also an author and entrepreneur. She has published a book called “The Disciple’s Guidebook” which helps readers understand biblical parables and prophecy. Amanda has been working on yoga/mediation equipment to help people continue a daily home practice. She now lives in Egypt with her husband and family.   

Join Amanda and Mohammad Awyan in April for our Archaeo-acoustics & Sound Healing Tour and learn more about the decan stars, alchemy, the Emerald Tablets, the Philosopher's Stone, and the god Thoth as you explore the hieroglyphs and reliefs inscribed on the temple walls. This is not your average tour - it’s a unique and immersive experience that will leave you feeling re-connected, inspired, and enlightened.

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