ABSTRACT

Drawing from cultic literature and iconography, this article examines the use of encirclement and circular imagery in ancient Egypt—ritual circumambulation, circular knots and jewelry, painted papyri, encircling utterances, and especially the apotropaic serpentine figure Mehen, who prefigured the ouroboros in Byzantine, Arabic, Jewish, and early modern European thought. Encirclement and circular imagery were performative in the ancient Egyptian context, functioning on a personal, psychological level as much as a shared, social level. Performing circles was an inner ritual or imaginative technology of self-transformation for the ancient Egyptian ritual practitioner and audience alike.

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