The Crocodile that Makes No Sound

I was going to call this post ‘Teething Pains’, but that might be because I am currently on maternity leave from the Egypt Exploration Society and so the phrase springs all too readily to mind.

Instead, I decided to draw on a common metaphor from Egyptian literature, that of the crocodile, because it summarises what I want to say. And because, well, crocodiles are cool. Though we suggest you don't try putting one in your shoe.

Image courtesy of Alensha, Wikimedia Commons: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien

Image courtesy of Alensha, Wikimedia Commons: Kunsthistorisches Museum, Wien

In ancient Egyptian literature, the crocodile is a fearsome, and feared creature. He is the fate that awaits the unwary fisherman and washerman (Satire of the Trades - see image, right).

He’s even the topic of a whole category of Egyptian magical ‘water’ spells - in fact, I wrote my PhD on those very spells. In these spells, the crocodile is such a great danger that he is often only referred to as 'the one who is on the water' - giving name to something conferred on it too much power. One of my favourite incantations against the crocodile is: 'Backwards, Maga, son of Seth (a crocodilian deity)! You will not row with your tail, you will not grasp with your arms, you will not open your mouth' - such powerful visual imagery of the danger posed by crocodiles. 

'Sovereign' written with crocodile hieroglyphs

The crocodile is also emblematic of power in ancient Egypt - particularly royal power. One way that the word for Pharaoh could be written was using the hieroglyph of the crocodile (see image, left).

This was usually employed when Pharaoh wanted to emphasise his might, his power, and the threat he posed to his enemies.

The Egyptian site of Crocodilopolis (later Arsinoë) in ancient times, now El-Fayyum, as well as the more southerly site of Kom Ombo, were cult centres for the worship of Sobek, the crocodile-headed deity. At Crocodilopolis, tame crocodiles were kept within the temple precinct in ancient times, and we have many mummified crocodiles from both sites.

Image courtesy of Chiswick Chap, Wikimedia Commons: Nile Crocodile having teeth cleaned by Spur-winged Plover

Image courtesy of Chiswick Chap, Wikimedia Commons: Nile Crocodile having teeth cleaned by Spur-winged Plover

So - why am I thinking about crocodiles? Or specifically their teeth?

Well, we have fallen into the jaws of the crocodile a few times in starting HieroEducation.

I won’t bore you with all the legal ins and outs that we had to contend with in setting up an online e-learning business, but suffice to say, after all that, we felt like Sinuhe having defeated the Champion of Retjenu. We might even have done a small dance of celebration. 

Then, once we had launched our website, there was The Curious Affair of the Link that Broke. Building a website, it transpires, requires a great deal of technical know-how, which we have had to acquire very quickly. We’ve had to learn a bit of HTML, a sprinkling of CSS, a dash of JavaScript, and a whiff of PHP. One thing we missed is that in moving from the version of the website called ‘Draft 21 458’ to the one called ‘Published FINAL’ we missed a broken link to the old Courses page. That crocodile caught us, despite our best incantations - and we’re really sorry to anyone who visited the website and got confused. We’re extending our special Early-Bird sale discount on our courses to apologise. It’s all fixed now, and hopefully crocodile-proof.

Image courtesy of CaptMondo, Wikimedia Commons: Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, München, ÄS 6809

Image courtesy of CaptMondo, Wikimedia Commons: Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst, München, ÄS 6809

Then there was the Mailing List sign-up form that asked the same question twice. We have had to be very careful in collecting personal data; we’ve made sure we complied with Data Protection legislation both in how we store and protect personal data, and in justifying why we collect information in the first place.

The crocodile, however, had other ideas. The crocodile decided that it wasn’t enough to make us read pages and pages of legislation, and write policies and discuss practices. No, that didn’t satisfy this scaly mischief-maker. He decided that what we really needed to do was to ask people, in effect: ‘where do you live?’, ‘I live here’, ‘no, but seriously, WHERE do you live?’
The crocodile has no friends, and is not invited to parties.

Again, we’ve sorted it out now, and we’re sorry for the annoyance. Do sign up for our mailing list if you’d like to keep in touch and be the first to hear about our new courses, and special offers.

However, I like to think that we can turn this crocodile around, and make it an ity crocodile - a badge of our strength. We’ve encountered some sharp pointy objects, but we’ve not turned into the Shipwrecked Sailor, so please bear with us as we become skilled scribes instead of fishermen/washermen. In the meantime, check out our first online courses, which will help you become a scribe too.