Egyptian Sacred Ibis Farm
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Basic Information

The Egyptian Sacred Ibis Farm is a hypothetical location that may or may not have existed in Ancient Egypt. Ancient Egyptians sort of had a thing for Ibises. They mummified literally millions of them. If you needed the help and attention of Thoth, the god of wisdom, one of the best ways to seek his divine intervention was to sacrifice and mummify an Ibis. So many were killed and mummified, that some historians think it's just not possible that they could have been only supplied by trapping or hunting. It's likely there was a Egyptian sacred Ibis farm somewhere that raised, killed and preserved them for ritual use. Either multiple farms in different parts of Egypt, or one huge farm (practically a factory farm just in terms of scope) or aviary that directly fed the Ibis-mummification industry.

Recent research, on the other hand, suggests that the Ibis mummies show more genetic diversity than you'd expect for farmed or intentionally-bred birds. So it's possible that they were hunted in the wild instead, but if so that might have taken remarkably large flocks of wild Ibis to support the scope of the animal mummy industry. (That's possibly not as outlandish as it seems, as we know for fact that when white men first arrived in the New World the skies were full of so many passenger pigeons as to periodically darken the skies for miles at a time. Certainly thousands of years ago this may have been true for the Ibis in the Middle East as well.) So it's entirely possible my crazy notion of a sacred Ibis farm is just nonsense…

…but arcanawiki is just the sort of place for reveling in inspired nonsense. Indulge me for a moment.

"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there." - L.P. Hartley

Indeed, in the past they spoke foreign languages, they worshiped strange gods, and for some reason they mummified millions of Ibises. What better way to cast the past as an alien time than to feature some crazy temple/garden/farm complex where birds are raised to be killed and not eaten. A place where animal husbandry is followed up by animal sacrifice, mummification, and possibly taxidermy or even mellification. All of it on an enormous scale, done under the auspices of the gods for inscrutable alien reasoning.



Game and Story Use

  • Here's your chance to do some world-building your players will never expect, and in the process show them just how foreign and surreal the ancient world can be when viewed from a three-thousand-year lens. If you want to show the opulence of the Pharoah, or the unbridled power and influence of the priest-caste in an era when everyone buys into Egyptian Mythology, this hypothetical mega-farm is a great opportunity.
  • Some sort of curse, disaster or foul-play at the farm might jeopardize the people's ability to contact or worship Thoth.
    • The PCs may be hired to solve the problem.
    • As long as things are awry at the sacred ibis farm, this might manifest as mass hysteria by the public, or incompetence/stupidity by the authorities. Disconnecting a culture from it's God of Wisdom does not bode well.
    • A foreign power may intentionally sabotage the farm to anger Thoth or inflict the manifestations I just proposed.

Building This Location

We don't know if it even existed, so you've got carte blanch to make up any details you want. Here's a few ideas I had:

  • Such a location is likely to need guards, and game warden or pinder types to protect the holy flocks, and probably a wall to keep out predators.
    • Trained baboons were used kind of like police dogs by the authorities of Ancient Egypt. As the Baboon is another animal held sacred by Thoth, it might make sense to also have trained baboons guarding the farm.
  • Ibises are water-birds, with long legs so they can wade out in the shallows. So the farm would either be irrigated, or else be situated on a river delta, coastal region, bog or flood plain.
  • Proximity to the mummification facilities would be important, so expect those on-site or nearby. Possibly somewhere a little drier than the farm, but certainly just a short trip.
  • Statuary and artwork of Thoth is likely to be on-site. It's not just a farm, it's a temple.
    • The artworks could be taken away as loot/treasure should the place get sacked.
  • Thoth is also the god of scribes and knowledge, so the complex may have a library and academics on hand.
  • The city of Hermopolis was on a river, and was the center of Thoth worship, so it's a likely location for such a place.
    • Of, for the sake of extravagance, set this location far away from Hermopolis, and have the finished mummies carried all that way by boat or chariot.
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