This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a typical book by an Egyptologist. It is Conman's first book, but not her first published work. Her articles are worth finding and reading. This author has specialized in a specialty that doesn't officially exist – ancient Egyptian astrology.

And herein lies the problem. Otto Neugebauer, a highly respected mid 20th century researcher, officially declared that there was no such thing as Egyptian astrology, period. Certainly funerary art included astronomical material, but it had nothing to do with astrology. His scholarly prejudice against astrology put a nail in the sarcophagus. Researchers allowed assumptions from 19th century Egyptologists and Neugebauer stand as facts.

Contradictions and confusions remained. Eventually these landed like a sodden lump at the feet of a person who wasn't willing to take assumptions for gospel. Conman has spent several years digging into the purportedly non-existent field of ancient Egyptian astrology and has uncovered quite a bit of significant information that sheds light on what the Egyptians did and did not do with their star lore. Her main focus in this book is the thirty-six decans and their associated stars, and their purpose in Egyptian time-keeping. Conman's work also connects a few dots between Egyptian decans and the shrouded origins of astrology. Astrology’s origins unite bits and pieces that came from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Hellenic scholars, and the city of Alexandria. The proportion credited to Egyptian star lore has been on the shy side. That, in itself, should raise a few red flags.

Conman's revelations fill in some of the gaps. To those intimately familiar with ancient astrology, the Egyptian contributions are clear as glass. How Egyptologists feel about Conman’s assertions are another story. Resistance to multi-disciplinary considerations regarding astrology will cost some Egyptologists their life's work. Conman wades through erroneous translations and presents her evidence for alternate conclusions. Words believed to be the names of constellations are shown to be the names of planets. It takes only a few steps to conclude that previous assumptions connecting constellations to after-life transitions are faulty, too.

I admire both book and author. Conman has chosen a difficult and lonely path, treading through a forest of swollen (and predominantly masculine) egos in the field of Egyptology, to tear asunder comfortable but erroneous scholarly dogma. The fresh take on the subject is meritorious and goes a long way toward building bridges of information where none previously existed. To be fair, Conman has picked up the rather unfortunate habit, found all too often in books by Egyptologists, of producing pages and pages of complaints about the work of other researchers. These get boring. But when she breaks into an uninhibited rant mode, she's awesome. Her poison arrows and scalding sarcasm are a delight. Neugebauer and his credulous acolytes probably deserve this long overdue comeuppance.

The winds of Egyptian scholarship are blowing in a new direction. Bad assumptions, bad translations, and dogmatized errors that have held fast for over 200 years are crumbling. The hands aiming the sweet kiss of the wrecking ball come from an unexpected direction. It may take a while for Conman's assertions to be taken as seriously as they deserve. Scholars of ancient astrology will pounce on the obvious morsels because they provide sought-after missing links. The corps of Egyptologists are another story; they are likely to be hamstrung by their own certainties and prejudices. It will be difficult to find more Queens of De Nile in Egypt than in the halls of universities.

This book is recommended for serious students of Egyptology and ancient star lore. It is carefully organized, well-documented, and scholarly. The writing is at times dense and extremely detailed. This is suitable for handling the topic properly, but it isn't likely to appeal to laymen with a superficial interest in the mysteries of Egypt. This book targets a narrow audience that will surely be fractured into those who are excited by these revelations and those who would prefer to stuff Conman into an empty pyramid and roll a stone across the door.

The author deserves laurels for her brave undertaking, and for willingness to refute nonsensical scholarly dogma.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Joanne Conman
Decan Wisdom Books 2013
229 pg, $18.95 pb

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