Pyramids is so obviously about ancient Egypt of the Roundworld that it almost need not be mentioned. But there…I did it anyway.
As such, it contains a plethora of gods and goddesses each of whom was brought into existence by one or more inhabitants of Djelibeybi (say it aloud, if you’ve never seen the name of the country before), presumably during some time of great need. Though why one would ever greatly need a God of Cutlery (Cephut), the Discworld may never know.
Kings and Queens of Djelibeybi – More Human Than Holy
Technically, if you’re a king or a queen of Djelibeybi, that means you’re also a god or goddess, if only because your high priest (probably Dios) tells you that you are. You may not feel omnipotent from day to day, but then, which of your gods truly are?
But let’s assume that Djelian (if that’s the proper term) kings and queens are at least superhuman beings. If so, then those in the first list below are rightly gods and goddesses along with the others we’ll discuss later.
The main character – hero, if you must – of Pyramids – is Teppic. In his royal office, you would spell that Pteppic, but we only see that leading P once in the story. In fact, he is more often (too often, if we’re being honest) called…
“King Teppicymon XXVIII, Lord of the Heavens, Charioteer of the Wagon of the Sun, Steersman of the Barque of the Sun, Guardian of the Secret Knowledge, Lord of the Horizon, Keeper of the Way, the Flail of Mercy, the High-Born One, the Never-Dying King.”
If that doesn’t make you a god, I don’t know what does. Well, actually, I do, but….
Teppics father, King Teppicymon XXVII, is another kingly god or godly king, but he’s dead for most of the story.
Khuft, the founder of Djelibeybi, is dead the whole time too. He’s been dead and embalmed for several thousand years, but that doesn’t stop him from making an appearance.
Teppic’s half-sister, Ptraci (always found with the leading P) must be a goddess because she eventually becomes leader of Djelibeybi when Teppic decides he doesn’t want the job anymore.
A small handful of other former rulers put in an appearance too.
Teppic called his grandmother – Queen Far-re-ptah, Ruler of the Skies, Lord of the Djel, Master of [something] – “Grandma Pooney” when he was little.
It’s hard to blame him.
King Ashk-ur-men-tep was ruler of the Third Empire. King Psam-nut-kha was 5000 years old at the time of Teppic.
In Pyramids, we meet a few leaders only in the form of frescoes.
Queen Khaput is known to have accepted Tribute from the Kingdoms of the World.
Pta-ka-ba was king when the Djel Empire extended (or extends, if you’re Dios) from the Circle Sea to the Rim Ocean. His cartouche reads (that is, looks like) “thin eagle, eye, wiggly line, man with a stick, bird sitting down, wiggly line”.
(Time for me to brush up on my hieroglyphics. I didn’t get Pta-ka-ba from those symbols at all.)
Queen Khat-leon-ra-pta won the kingdom of Howandaland by stealth. I wish we could have been there.
Kheneth XIV is remembered because a fresco painter claimed it only took 2 hours to do the Queen’s Room in his pyramid. Time is very fluid around Djelian pyramids. (Read the book to find out more about the concept. It’s important.)
The Real Gods of Djelibeybi
Now we get to the real thing – the Supreme Gods, the Ruler of the World of the Dead, the Animal-Headed Gods, sun gods and goddesses, The Eater of Souls, and more…especially Nept.
The Supreme Gods of Djelibeybi
According to Dios, there are several supreme gods. You might be wondering how there can be more than one. Isn’t multiple supremes a contradiction in terms? Well…yes. That’s the whole point really.
Dios knows that the following are the supreme gods of his homeland.
I’m not sure if Io is the same Blind Io on Dunmanifestin that we’ve met in earlier novels. He probably is. Why wouldn’t he be?
If you say them aloud one after another, it almost sounds like you’re saying something almost comprehensible. Almost.
Ruler of the World of the Dead
As Dios knew the supreme gods, he also knew the (one…or, at least, four) Ruler of the World of the Dead.
Take your pick from these.
- Herpetine Triskeles
- Silur the Catfish-Headed God
If Syncope looks like a real word to you, that’s because it is. It means both a temporary loss of consciousness and the omission of sounds or letters within a word. Did Terry have either of these meanings in mind when naming this god? Prolly.
Silur will appear again in his proper place in a list below.
Coming up with a reason for the other two being named what they are involves several stretches which I’m not willing to make. Considering that there was no real meaning behind the names of even the supreme gods, this doesn’t seem like such a terrible omission. Prolly.
Animal-Headed Gods of Djelibeybi
The Djelians seemed to have a special affection (or strange sense of humor) for giving their gods the heads of various animals. Presumably there were many more than those in this next list, but these serve well as a fair sampling of what you could expect if you lived along the Djel.
- Silur the Catfish-Headed God (a Ruler of the World of the Dead, noted above)
- Hat the Vulture-Headed God of Unexpected Guests
- Bast the Cat-Headed God
- Vut the Dog-Headed God of the Evening
- Ket the Ibis-Headed God of Justice
- Bunu the Goat-Headed God of Goats
- Tzut the Snake-Headed God of the Upper Djel
- Fhez the Crocodile-Headed God of the Lower Djel
- Teg the Horse-Headed God of Agriculture
- Juf the Cobra-Headed God of Papyrus
- Put the Lion-Headed God of Justice
- Chefet the Dog-Headed God of Metalwork
Ptaclusp owned a statue of Hat. A running gag – admittedly a short jog – involves his trying to get rid of it after having purchased it unwisely.
Teppic temporarily used a statue of Bast to store his assassin’s costume for time of need.
You could consider Vut to be one of the sun gods (see below), since he’s involved in time keeping as God of the Evening.
Yes, there are two gods of Justice – Ket and Put. And yes, there are two dog-headed gods – Vut and Chefet. I strongly suspect there are more of each, so it doesn’t pay to justify the doubling of these few.
The Sun Gods and Goddesses of Djelibeybi
Let’s first get their names out of the way.
You’re probably thinking that having a god named What could be a bit of an issue – maybe even a sticky wicket. But that problem is nothing compared to the name of the scrolls in which we find What: Knot.
(Yeah, I had to craft that sentence carefully, but I think it works…yesno?)
Yes, the crumbling scrolls of Knot (which some think may be the name of a town) are the source of all the information we have about What. She is the sky goddess who eats the great orange sun every evening but saves one pip in time to grow a fresh sun the next morning.
Nesh is the goddess who has a spinning blue soap bubble in which the sun is a round hole. Also, the stars are holes that the rain comes through.
Scrab is the Pusher of the Ball of the Sun. See the upper left corner of the picture (below) of Teppic and Nept.
Thrrp (surprisingly easier to pronounce than Pteppi, Ptraci, etc.) is the Charioteer of the Sun. Jeht is the Boatman of the Solar Orb. Gil is just another god who wants to control the sun. Sessifet is the Sun Goddess of the Afternoon – a counterpart to Vut (see above) the Dog-Headed God of the Evening.
The Eater of Souls
This deity – at least, Dios makes it sound like one – is the being who would have taken control of Ptraci since she didn’t want to become a servant in the netherworld.
Apparently he would only take her soul, though. Most would rather have had her body.
Speaking of heavenly bodies….
Nept the Goddess of the Heavens
Here a picture is truly worth a thousand words, and for this one we thank you, Paul Kidby. The following is his conception of Teppic (foreground), Scrab (upper left), and Nept (upper right).
I figured I’d have to point out Teppic and Scrab or you would have missed them.
Here is Terry’s description of Nept.
“She was enormous, her statistics stellar. The shadow between her galactic breasts was a dark nebula, the curve of her stomach a vast wash of glowing gas, her navel the seething, dark incandescence in which new stars were being born. She wasn’t supporting the sky. She was the sky.”
Also, “Her huge sad face, upside down on the turnwise horizon, stared directly at Dil.”
I’m not sure whether to envy or pity Dil.
Miscellaneous Gods of Djelibeybi
We know precious little about the last of the gods of the Djel.
Cephut is the God of Cutlery.
Sarduk is the Goddess of Caves.
And Khefin is the Two-Faced God of Gateways. Obviously, you see him coming and going.
The Gods Come to Life
At one point in the story of Pyramids, all of these gods and goddesses come to life – for real. They’re no longer just the figments of their human creator’s imaginations.
It’s a terrible time.
For some reason, when this started to happen, I imagined that these gods were roughly human-sized. I’m not sure why.
So I was somewhat surprised when I realized how big at least one of them really was.
A crocodile-headed god, presumably Fhez, God of the Lower Djel, could simply reach out and threaten Teppic while he was atop the Great Pyramid which was hundreds of feet high.
So that’s one big god – relatively speaking.
Do these gods and goddesses deserve praise? Of course not. Someone who does is Terry for creating them in the first place.