The Herdsman of the Anus

Today’s fragments come courtesy of my occasional guest blogger, the cartoonist Adrian Teal. In this post Adrian uncovers the little-known practise of Egyptian proctology.

Ir-en-akhty was an ancient Egyptian proctologist during the First Intermediate Period (c. 2181 – 2040 B.C.), and we only know about him because of an inscription on a false door slab discovered at Giza. The door also gives us his nickname, which was ‘Pepy-ankh’, which translates as ‘may King Pepy live’, but as this was a popular name throughout the period, we can’t be sure which pharaoh he served. However, we do have a full list of his medical titles:

Court Doctor
Inspector of Court Doctors
Court Ophthalmologist
Court Gastro-Enterologist
Herdsman of the Anus
Interpreter of Liquids.

As Herdsman of the Anus, Ir-en-akhty would have been in charge of administering enemas to the royal rectum. The Egyptians attached a great deal of importance to enemas, and they were associated with the ibis-headed god Thoth, physician to the deities and patron god of doctors. The ibis was thought to have invented the enema when it stuck its beak up its own backside. The medication used was mixed with milk, water, beer, honey and wine, and was thought to cure various problems, including greying and thinning hair. Enemas were usually given monthly, and were also seen as a method of cleansing the spirit.

By the second century A.D, Clemens of Alexandria wrote of forty-two sacred books Thoth was supposed to have given to mankind, containing the fount of all knowledge, and the god had become very closely associated with Hermes. He was known as ‘Hermes Trismegistos’, meaning ‘thrice-great’, and so the collection of works was labelled the ‘Hermetic Collection’.

“Administering the ibis now, your highness…”
Adrian Teal
See my work & CV under ‘T’ in the Members’ Portfolios
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