Religion Past and Present

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Soul Bird
(169 words)

[German Version]

The fugitive soul is represented pictorially in many forms. Late, principally Roman sarcophagi depict Prometheus (Culture hero) forming a human being as a statuette, to which Athena adds a butterfly (Gk ψυχή/psychḗ ). Frequently the soul is represented as a bird. The soul bird itself comes from ancient Egypt. In the earliest period, a bird resembling a stork, later a falcon, was considered the embodiment of divine powers called ba. Probably on account of a later shift in meaning, this term was already translated by Horapollon as psychḗ or “soul.” In the Old Kingdom…

Cite this page
Hoheisel, Karl, “Soul Bird”, in: Religion Past and Present. Consulted online on 24 November 2020 <http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/1877-5888_rpp_SIM_025425>
First published online: 2011
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004146662, 2006-2013



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