Of the three princes born to Khentkawes (Userkare/Userkaf, Sahure, and Nefer-ir-kare), the youngest Nefer-ir-kare, called Kakai (“dark”), became the most prominent. The reason for this was that he had succeeded in producing two sons of his own by his mother Khentkawes. Consequently, Nefer-ir-kare earned the status of Horus the Elder while his sons became twins in the role of Horus the Younger. Ostensibly, Khentkawes had excelled Hathor herself in fertility by producing not one but two Horus the Younger figures. (The idea of twin Joshua figures was perpetuated in later dynasties, and all the way down to the time of Jesus and Paul.)
Khentkawes as wife/consort of Nerfer-ir-kare held the same unique title as Khentkawes the mother of Nefer-ir-kare, and was also depicted with uraeus, false beard and the crossed arm and repose of a king. Joyce Tyldesley writes in “Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt” (p55): “Originally this led to a huge amount of confusion [i.e., the identical attributions and title of Khentkawes I & II] as Egyptologists assumed, not unnaturally, that Khentkawes I and Khentkawes II were one and the same lady. Today we recognize that they are different, identically named women each faced with a dynastic crisis.” Despite modern sensibilities we non-Egyptologists should however now accept the obvious conclusion that there was only one queen/pharaoh Khentkawes and that she was emulating the procreative tradition of her “divine” ancestress Hathor.
Note: The title of Khentkawes (I & II) is variously translated (by perplexed Egyptologists) as “Mother of Two Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt” or “King of Upper and Lower Egypt and Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt”.
Note: The implication of the two Hathors beside Menkhaure is that this king possessed a double portion, genetically speaking, of the goddess Hathor. His mother, in the role of Hathor, had bore him to her much older son Khafre. It could further imply that Hathor had renewed/recreated herself.
Did Khentkawes consider herself transformed from female to male by producing a son through her own son? That is one viable interpretation. Certainly, a king that produced a son by his own mother considered himself to be “self-created”. In other words, he had reproduced himself, or in Egyptian parlance had created a “living image” of himself (i.e., a veritable “spitting image” or clone to use more modern language). But what was the real motivation behind this act? In the animal kingdom, an alpha male lion is the father of most if not all of the females of the group with which he also mates. A lioness does not normally mate with her own offspring, but would during a societal breakdown in the absence of an older, dominant male.
Note: The Egyptian word/title shesep-ankh meant "living image" and was applied to sphinxes in general. The 4th Dynasty name Shepses (“noble”), as in pharaoh Shepses-kaf, is a transposition of shesep. This word play goes along with the ancient idea that nobility and breeding went hand-in-hand. Compare the name Tut-ankh-Amun/Aten, which meant "living image of Amun/Aten" and reflected the nature of his extreme inbreeding.
In times of trouble, there is always a tendency to resume practices that were considered beneficial in the past. Yet, there seems to be another more significant dynamic within the royal family. By the Egyptian Old Kingdom both plants and animals had been domesticated by mankind. However, the royal family continued to experiment with their own species. From myth, we learn that it was the privilege of the “eldest son” Geb to mate with his mother. Geb however was eventually disgraced, supposedly for abusing his mother but more accurately it seems for failing to produce a child by her. They were not inter-fertile. He did not pass the litmus test by which the royal family judged worthiness of an heir (in terms of breeding potential within an already highly inbred family).
Although a child by such a mother-son union might expect to rule, he was not likely to found a lasting dynasty due to infertility (with other royals). The dynasty was more likely to extend through another child born through a more traditional royal pairing, such as brother with half-sister. Consistent with this, it was not Geb or even Re that perpetuated the “divine lineage”, but Horus the Elder due to his producing a son, Horus the Younger, through Hathor. The dynastic line however did not extend beyond Horus the Younger, but instead carried on through Peribsen, a son of Horus the Elder by another woman/wife. In Biblical terms, the lion mantle (signifying kingly “birthright”) passed from the “eldest son” Reuben (Geb) to another brother, Judah (Horus the Elder).
Note: Ru was the Egyptian word for lion, and Reu-ben was Jacob’s eldest son who was disgraced.
Note: Hathor was the biological mother Re, Horus the Elder, and Horus the Younger. See: www.domainofman.com/book/tut-1.html
Note: Explaining away the title, “Bull of His Mother”
Note: Links related to animal breeding (in-breeding):
Cat inbreeding, case study, cheetahs:
The human horror of incest:
© Charles N. Pope, US Library of Congress. All rights reserved.