Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.


A picture is worth a thousand words.

~Napoleon Bonaparte

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Thoth, Set, Anubis, Hermanubis, Min, and Hathor,

Thot, (Thoth) the god of Hermopolis, represented as ibis or baboon, was essentially a moon-god, who measured time, counted the days, numbered the months, and recorded the years. Lunar divinities, as we know, are everywhere supposed to exercise the most varied powers: they command the mysterious forces of the universe; they know the sounds, words, and gestures by which those forces are put in motion, and not content with using them for their own benefit, they also teach to their worshipers the art of employing them. 

Thot is the chief of the Hermopolitan Ennead, and the titles ascribed to him by inscriptions maintaining his supremacy show that he also was considered to have been the first king. One of the Ptolemies said of himself that he came "as the Majesty of Thot, because he was the equal of Atûmû, hence the equal of Khopri, hence the equal of Râ." Atûmû-Khopri-Râ being the first earthly king, it follows that the Majesty of Thot, with whom Ptolemy identifies himself, comparing himself to the three forms of the God Râ, is also the first earthly king.

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin from an enamelled pottery figure from Coptos, now in my possession. Neck, feet, and tail are in blue enamel, the rest is in green. The little personage represented as squatting beneath the beak is Mâit, the goddess of truth, and the ally of Thot. The ibis was furnished with a ring for suspending it; this has been broken off, but traces of it may still be seen at the back of the head. 

 Astronomy, divination, magic, medicine, writing, drawing—in fine, all the arts and sciences emanated from him as from their first source. He had taught mankind the methodical observation of the heavens and of the changes that took place in them, the slow revolutions of the sun, the rapid phases of the moon, the intersecting movements of the five planets, and the shapes and limits of the constellations which each night were lit up in the sky. Most of the latter either remained, or appeared to remain immovable, and seemed never to pass out of the regions accessible to the human eye. Those which were situate on the extreme margin of the firmament accomplished movements there analogous to those of the planets.

Thoth has been depicted in many ways depending on the era and on the aspect the artist wished to convey. Usually, he is depicted in his human form with the head of an ibis.

Thot, having pointed out the evil to men, gave to them at the same time the remedy. The magical arts of which he was the repository, made him virtual master of the other gods. He knew their mystic names, their secret weaknesses, the kind of peril they most feared, the ceremonies which subdued them to his will, the prayers which they could not refuse to grant under pain of misfortune or death. His wisdom, transmitted to his worshippers, assured to them the same authority which he exercised upon those in heaven, on earth, or in the nether world. The magicians instructed in his school had, like the god, control of the words and sounds which, emitted at the favourable moment with the "correct voice," would evoke the most formidable deities from beyond the confines of the universe: they could bind and loose at will Osiris, Sit, Anubis, even Thot himself; they could send them forth, and recall them, or constrain them to work and fight for them. The extent of their power exposed the magicians to terrible temptations; they were often led to use it to the detriment of others, to satisfy their spite, or to gratify their grosser appetites. Many, moreover, made a gain of their knowledge, putting it at the service of the ignorant who would pay for it. When they were asked to plague or get rid of an enemy, they had a hundred different ways of suddenly surrounding him without his suspecting it: they tormented him with deceptive or terrifying dreams; they harassed him with apparitions and mysterious voices; they gave him as a prey to sicknesses, to wandering spectres, who entered into him and slowly consumed him. They constrained, even at a distance, the wills of men; they caused women to be the victims of infatuations, to forsake those they had loved, and to love those they had previously detested. In order to compose an irresistible charm, they merely required a little blood from a person, a few nail-parings, some hair, or a scrap of linen which he had worn, and which, from contact with his skin, had become impregnated with his personality. Portions of these were incorporated with the wax of a doll which they modelled, and clothed to resemble their victim; thenceforward all the inflictions to which the image was subjected were  experienced by the original; he was consumed with fever when his effigy was exposed to the fire, he was wounded when the figure was pierced by a knife. The Pharaohs themselves had no immunity from these spells.[*]

* Spells were employed against Ramses III., and the evidence in the criminal charge brought against the magicians explicitly mentions the wax figures and the philters used on this occasion.

These machinations were wont to be met by others of the same kind, and magic, if invoked at the right moment, was often able to annul the ills which magic had begun. 

 Thoth, sitting on his throne

It was not indeed all-powerful against fate: the man born on the 27th of Paophi would die of a snake-bite, whatever charm he might use to protect himself. But if the day of his death were foreordained, at all events the year in which it would occur was uncertain, and it was easy for the magician to arrange that it should not take place prematurely. A formula recited opportunely, a sentence of prayer traced on a papyrus, a little statuette worn about the person, the smallest amulet blessed and consecrated, put to flight the serpents who were the instruments of fate. Those curious stelae on which we see Horus half naked, standing on two crocodiles and brandishing in his fists creatures which had reputed powers of fascination, were so many protecting talismans; set up at the entrance to a room or a house, they kept off the animals represented and brought the evil fate to nought.

Drawn by Faucher-Gudin, from an Alexandrian stele in the Gîzeh Museum. The reason for the appearance of so many different animals in this stele and in others of the same nature, has been given by Maspero, Études de Mythologie et d'Archéologie Égyptiennes, vol. ii. pp. 417- 419; they were all supposed to possess the evil eye and to be able to fascinate their victim before striking him.

Sooner or later destiny would doubtless prevail, and the moment would come when the fated serpent, eluding all precautions, would succeed in carrying out the sentence of death. At all events the man would have lived, perhaps to the verge of old age, perhaps to the years of a hundred and ten, to which the wisest of the Egyptians hoped to attain, and which period no man born of mortal mother might exceed. If the arts of magic could thus suspend the law of destiny, how much more efficacious were they when combating the influences of secondary deities, the evil eye, and the spells of man? Thot, who was the patron of sortilege, presided also over exorcisms, and the criminal acts which some committed in his name could have reparation made for them by others in his name. To malicious genii, genii still stronger were opposed; to harmful amulets, those which were protective; to destructive measures, vitalizing remedies; and this was not even the most troublesome part of the magicians' task. Nobody, in fact, among those delivered by their intervention escaped unhurt from the trials to which, he had been subjected. The possessing spirits when they quitted their victim generally left behind them traces of their occupation, in the brain, heart, lungs, intestines—in fact, in the whole body. The illnesses to which the human race is prone, were not indeed all brought about by enchanters relentlessly persecuting their enemies, but they were all attributed to the presence of an invisible being, whether spectre or demon, who by some supernatural means had been made to enter the patient, or who, unbidden, had by malice or necessity taken up his abode within him. It was needful, after expelling the intruder, to re-establish the health of the sufferer by means of fresh remedies. The study of simples and other materiæ medicæ would furnish these; Thot had revealed himself to man as the first magician, he became in like manner for them the first physician and the first surgeon.

 Ramses III. in front of god Thoth in tomb of Khaemwaset

It was Thot who had taught men arithmetic; Thot had revealed to them the mysteries of geometry and mensuration; Thot had constructed instruments and promulgated the laws of music; Thot had instituted the art of drawing, and had codified its unchanging rules. He had been the inventor or patron of all that was useful or beautiful in the Nile valley, and the climax of his beneficence was reached by his invention of the principles of writing, without which humanity would have been liable to forget his teaching, and to lose the advantage of his discoveries. It has been sometimes questioned whether writing, instead of having been a benefit to the Egyptians, did not rather injure them. An old legend relates that when the god unfolded his discovery to King Thamos, whose minister he was, the monarch immediately raised an objection to it.

 1 Bas-relief of the temple of Seti I. at Abydos, drawn by Boudier; from a photograph by Beato. The god is marking with his reed-pen upon the notches of a long frond of palm, the duration in millions of years of the reign of Pharaoh upon this earth, in accordance with the decree of the gods.

Thot formed no exception to this rule. He was lord of the voice, master of words and of books, possessor or inventor of those magic writings which nothing in heaven, on earth, or in Hades can withstand.[***] 

*** Cf. in the tale of Satni (Maspero, Contes populaires de l'Ancienne Egypte, 2nd edit., p. 175) the description of the book which Thot has himself written with his own hand, and which makes its possessor the equal of the gods.

He had discovered the incantations which evoke and control the gods; he had transcribed the texts and noted the melodies of these incantations; he recited them with that true intonation—mâ khrôû—which renders them all-powerful, and every one, whether god or man, to whom he imparted them, and whose voice he made true—smâ khrôû—became like himself master of the universe. He had accomplished the creation not by muscular effort to which the rest of the cosmogonical gods primarily owed their birth, but by means of formulas, or even of the voice alone, "the first time" when he awoke in the Nû. In fact, the articulate word and the voice were believed to be the most potent of creative forces, not remaining immaterial on issuing from the lips, but condensing, so to speak, into tangible substances; into bodies which were themselves animated by creative life and energy; into gods and goddesses who lived or who created in their turn. By a very short phrase Tûmû had called forth the gods who order all things; for his "Come unto me!" uttered with a loud voice upon the day of creation, had evoked the sun from within the lotus. Thot had opened his lips, and the voice which proceeded from him had become an entity; sound had solidified into matter, and by a simple emission of voice the four gods who preside over the four houses of the world had come forth alive from his mouth without bodily effort on his part, and without spoken evocation. Creation by the voice is almost as great a refinement of thought as the substitution of creation by the word for creation by muscular effort. In fact, sound bears the same relation to words that the whistle of a quartermaster bears to orders for the navigation of a ship transmitted by a speaking trumpet; it simplifies speech, reducing it as it were to a pure abstraction. At first it was believed that the creator had made the world with a word, then that he had made it by sound; but the further conception of his having made it by thought does not seem to have occurred to the theologians. It was narrated at Hermopolis, and the legend was ultimately universally accepted, even by the Heliopolitans, that the separation of Nûît and Sibû had taken place at a certain spot on the site of the city where Sibû had ascended the mound on which the feudal temple was afterwards built, in order that he might better sustain the goddess and uphold the sky at the proper height. The conception of a Creative Council of five gods had so far prevailed at Hermopolis that from this fact the city had received in remote antiquity the name of the "House of the Five;" its temple was called the "Abode of the Five" down to a late period in Egyptian history, and its prince, who was the hereditary high priest of Thot, reckoned as the first of his official titles that of "Great One of the House of the Five." 

 A well preserved temple relief of pharaoh Ramesses II at the Temple of Derr.

 Nephthys, Thoth and  Osiris

In Egyptian mythology , Nephthys is a member of the Great Ennead of Helioplois, a daughter of Nut and Geb. Nephthys was typically paired with her sister Isis in funerary rites  because of their role as protectors of the mummy and the god Osiris and as the sister-wife of Seth.

Tradition had it that Nephthys had made Osiris drunken, drawn him to her arms without his knowledge, and borne him a son; the child of this furtive union was the jackal Anubis.

Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion. In the ancient Egyptian language, Anubis is known as Inpu (variously spelled Anup, Anpu, and Ienpw). According to the Akkadian transcription in the Amarna letters, Anubis' name was vocalized as Anapa The oldest known mention of Anubis is in the Old Kingdom pyramid texts, where he is associated with the burial of the Pharaoh. At this time, Anubis was the most important god of the dead but he was replaced during the Middle Kingdom by Osiris.


  Picture of wall painting from the tomb of Sennedjem. Anubus attending the mummy of the deceased.

And we have Hermanibus.

 Statue of the Egyptian god Anubis (showing the attributes of the Greek god Hermes, with whom he was identified). In the Vatican Museums, Vatican City

There is inaccuracy in Wikipedia as Hermes was identified with Thoth.


Herodotus, Histories 2. 138 (trans. Godley) (Greek historian C5th B.C.) :

"[In the city of Bubastis is a] temple of Hermes [i.e. the Egyptian god Thoth]."
Ovid, Metamorphoses 5. 319 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"Typhoeus, issuing from earth's lowest depths, struck terror in those heavenly hearts, and they all turned their backs and fled, until they found refuge in Aegyptus and the seven-mouthed Nilus . . . Typhoeus Terrigena (Earthborn) even there pursued them and the gods concealed themselves in spurious shapes . . . Cyllenius [Hermes] [as] an ibis [i.e. the ibis-headed Egyptian god Thoth]."


While Osiris developed for the better, Sit (Set) was transformed for the worse, and increased in wickedness as his brother gained in purity and moral elevation. In proportion as the person of Sît grew more defined, and stood out more clearly, the evil within him contrasted more markedly with the innate goodness of Osiris, and what had been at first an instinctive struggle between two beings somewhat vaguely defined—the desert and the Nile, water and drought—was changed into conscious and deadly enmity. No longer the conflict of two elements, it was war between two gods; one labouring to produce abundance, while the other strove to do away with it; one being all goodness and life, while the other was evil and death incarnate.

The gradual invasion of the domain of Sit by Osiris marks the beginning of the strife. Sit rebels against the wrong of which he is the victim, involuntary though it was; he surprises and treacherously slays his brother, drives Isis into temporary banishment among her marshes, and reigns over the kingdom of Osiris as well as over his own. But his triumph is short-lived. Horus, having grown up, takes arms against him, defeats him in many encounters, and banishes him in his turn. The creation of the world had brought the destroying and the life-sustaining gods face to face: the history of the world is but the story of their rivalries and warfare. 

Sît-Typhon was red-haired and white-skinned, of violent, gloomy, and jealous temper.[*] Secretly he aspired to the crown, and nothing but the vigilance of Isis had kept him from rebellion during the absence of his brother. The rejoicings which celebrated the king's return to Memphis provided Sit with his opportunity for seizing the throne.

* The colour of his hair was compared with that of a red- haired ass, and on that account the ass was sacred to him. As to his violent and jealous disposition, see the opinion of Diodorus Siculus, book i. 21, and the picture drawn by Synesius in his pamphlet Ægyptius. It was told how he tore his mother's bowels at birth, and made his own way into the world through her side.

 Set retained the valley from the neighbourhood of Memphis to the first cataract, while Horus entered into possession of the Delta.
Reliefs of the funerary temple of Sahure. The god « Set of Nubt » - 5th dynasty of Egypt - Egyptian museum of Berlin

The gods Seth (left) and Horus (right) adoring Ramesses in the small temple at Abu Simbel

 Pectoral depicting Horus and Seth. Middle Kingdom, Dynasty 12

Min is an Ancient Egyptian god whose cult originated in predynastic times (4th millennium BC). He was represented in many different forms, but was often represented in male human form, shown with an erect penis which he holds in his left hand and an upheld right arm holding a flail. As Khem or Min, he was the god of reproduction; as Khnum, he was the creator of all things, "the maker of gods and men". As a god of fertility, he was shown as having black skin. 
Even some war goddesses were depicted with the body of Min (including the phallus), and this also led to depictions, ostensibly of Min, with the head of a lioness. 

According to G. Maspero, "Osiris is often represented with black or green hands and face, as is customary for gods of the dead; it was probably this peculiarity which suggested the popular idea of his black complexion."
 god Min
His cult was strongest in Coptos and Akhmim (Panopolis), where in his honour great festivals were held celebrating his “coming forth” with a public procession and presentation of offerings.His other associations include the eastern desert and links to the god Horus.
His importance grew in the Middle Kingdom when he became even more closely linked with Horus as the deity Min-Horus. By the New Kingdom he was also fused with Amen in the deity Min-Amen-kamutef (Min-Amen - bull of his mother). Min's shrine was crowned with a pair of bull horns. The symbols of Min were the white bull, a barbed arrow, and a bed of lettuce, that the Egyptians believed to be an aphrodisiac, as Egyptian lettuce was tall, straight, and released a milk-like substance when rubbed, characteristics superficially similar to the penis. 

"Let it go forth that it may smite those who have devised evil against thee, for there is no Eye more to be feared than thine when it attacketh in the form of Hâthor." So the Eye takes the form of Hâthor, suddenly falls upon men, and slays them right and left with great strokes of the knife. After some hours, Râ, who would chasten but not destroy his children, commands her to cease from her carnage; but the goddess has tasted blood, and refuses to obey him. "By thy life," she replies, "when I slaughter men then is my heart right joyful!"

That is why she was afterwards called Sokhît (Sekhmetthe) slayer, and represented under the form of a fierce lioness. Nightfall stayed her course in the neighbourhood of Heracleopolis; all the way from Heliopolis she had trampled through blood. As soon as she had fallen asleep, Râ hastily took effectual measures to prevent her from beginning her work again on the morrow.
"He said: 'Call on my behalf messengers agile and swift, who go like the wind.' When these messengers were straightway brought to him, the Majesty of the god said: 'Let them run to Elephantine and bring me mandragora in plenty.'"[**]

** The mandragora of Elephantine was used in the manufacture of an intoxicating and narcotic drink employed either in medicine or in magic. In a special article, Brugsch has collected particulars preserved by the texts as to the uses of this plant. It was not as yet credited with the human form and the peculiar kind of life ascribed to it by western sorcerers.

When they had brought him the mandragora, the Majesty of this great god summoned the miller which is in Heliopolis that he might bray it; and the women-servants having crushed grain for the beer, the mandragora, and also human blood, were mingled with the liquor, and thereof was made in all seven thousand jars of beer. Râ himself examined this delectable drink, and finding it to possess the wished-for properties: "'It is well,' said he; 'therewith shall I save men from the goddess;' then, addressing those of his train: 'Take these jars in your arms, and carry them to the place where she has slaughtered men.' Râ, the king, caused dawn to break at midnight, so that this philtre might be poured down upon the earth; and the fields were flooded with it to the depth of four palms, according as it pleased the souls of his Majesty." In the morning the goddess came, "that she might return to her carnage, but she found that all was flooded, and her countenance softened; when she had drunken, it was her heart that softened; she went away drunk, without further thought of men." There was some fear lest her fury might return when the fumes of drunkenness were past, and to obviate this danger Râ instituted a rite, partly with the object of instructing future generations as to the chastisement which he had inflicted upon the impious, partly to console Sokhît for her discomfiture. He decreed that "on New Year's Day there should be brewed for her as many jars of philtre as there were priestesses of the sun. That was the origin of all those jars of philtre, in number equal to that of the priestesses, which, at the feast of Hâthor, all men make from that day forth."
G. Maspero, History of Egypt, Chaldea, Babylonia, and Assyria Vol. I