Thoth; from “Handbook of Egyptian Mythology” (Geraldine Pinch)
Thoth was the god of wisdom and secret knowledge who invented writing and the different languages of humanity. As a lunar deity, Thoth was the deputy of the sun god, Ra. He mediated between the Two Fighters, Horus and Seth, and returned the estranged Eye of Ra to her father. As the divine physician, Thoth used his magical powers to heal the wounded Eye of Horus. Thoth could be shown as a “beautiful” baboon or as an ibis or an ibis-headed man. Ra was said to have created the baboon form of Thoth to shine in the night sky and the ibis form to act as a messenger between earth and heaven.
Thoth was sometimes called the god “without a mother.” One text states that Thoth came “from the lips of Ra” to uphold maat, the divine order. He was also said to have sprung from the forehead of Seth after this god swallowed some of the semen of his rival, Horus. At his main cult center of Hermopolis Magna, Thoth, Lord of the Ogdoad, was worshipped as a self-creating deity who produced the cosmic egg on the Island of Flame. As a moon god he was pictured crossing the night sky in a boat, but Thoth could also be the navigator of the boat of the sun god.
Thoth, the “excellent of understanding,” observed and wrote down everything that happened and reported it to Ra every morning. As the record keeper of the gods he was paired with the librarian goddess Seshat. Thoth and Seshat knew the future as well as the past. They inscribed a person’s fate on the bricks on which their mother gave birth and the length of a king’s reign on the leaves of the ished tree.
Thoth set a divine example as a just judge and an incorruptible official. He lifted Maat, the goddess of justice, to her father, Ra. Thoth was responsible for framing and enforcing the laws of maat. In this role he could be either a gracious peacemaker or a merciless executioner. During the conflict between Seth and Osiris, Thoth acted as the advocate of the murdered Osiris before the Divine Tribunal. His spells and amulets prevented Seth from destroying the mummy of Osiris in its eternal resting place. Thoth gave his protection to Isis and healed her infant son, Horus, in the marshes of Chemmis.
The New Kingdom story, The Contendings of Horus and Seth, pictures Thoth as the secretary of the Ennead of Heliopolis. He writes several letters on behalf of the Ennead as they struggle to decide between Horus and Seth, and he offers sensible advice to the sun god. When Isis literally loses her head at one point in the conflict, it is Thoth who gives her a new one. In earlier sources it is the damaged Eye of Horus that Thoth “makes new.” Thoth’s offering of the whole eye (the wedjat) to Horus and Horus’s offering of it to Osiris became the precedent for all offerings to gods and spirits.
From the Middle Kingdom onward, Thoth was shown as an ape or an ibis-headed man holding out the wedjat eye. In some cases this eye should be interpreted as the Eye of Ra rather than the Eye of Horus. The Eye goddess who was the estranged daughter of Ra was too powerful to be overcome by force. Ra chose Thoth to fetch this Distant Goddess back from a remote desert. Disguised as a baboon or monkey, Thoth accomplished his task through humility, cunning, and perseverance. According to one account he had to ask the goddess to come home 1,077 times. Thoth was given Nehemtawy, a pacified version of the Distant Goddess, as his consort.
Thoth played an important role in everyone’s afterlife. In the Pyramid Texts the dead kings fly up to the heavens on the wings of Thoth. In the Middle Kingdom Book of Two Ways, the Mansion of Thoth provides a safe haven for spirits who can use his magic to get past the demons of the underworld. Some of the royal Underworld Books of the New Kingdom name Thoth as presiding over the mystical union of Ra and Osiris that allowed the dead to reawaken each night. In the Book of the Dead, Thoth stands ready to record the verdict when the heart of the deceased is weighed against the feather of maat. Those who feared failure asked Thoth to plead for them as he had once pleaded for Osiris. All funerary spells could be regarded as works of Thoth.
A tradition grew up that Thoth had written forty-two books containing all the knowledge needed by humanity. Some of this was occult knowledge to be revealed only to initiates who would not misuse the power it gave them. The Greeks identified Thoth with their messenger god, Hermes. The body of literature known as the Hermetica claimed to preserve the teachings of Hermes Trismegistus (Thoth the Thrice Great). Hermes Trismegistus was eventually reinterpreted as a great thinker who had lived thousands of years in the past.
Quoted from: “Handbook of Egyptian Mythology”, by Geraldine Pinch