Thoth; from “Ancient Egyptian religion” (Jaroslav Černý)

Among the important gods there were two who while never attaining the grade of supreme universal god but remaining of secondary rank, were worshipped everywhere throughout the country. They were Thoth and Anubis. Expressed in terms of human society, their relation to the supreme god can be said to have been that of the highest official, the vizier, to the king. Thoth was in the realm of the god of the living, the sun-god, while Anubis was under Osiris in the realm of the dead; Thoth, however, also penetrates into the kingdom of Osiris and becomes associated with Anubis, as we shall see presently.

Thoth whom we have already met as the moon-god was also the god of wisdom and learning. This is explained by his connexion with the moon, since the moon impressed the ancient Egyptians by its changes. As moon-god Thoth is called “Lord of Heavens”, “Mysterious”, “Unknown”, “Silent One”, “Beautiful of the Night” and so forth. The greatest festival of Thoth was celebrated in the first month of the Egyptian calendar and from the New Kingdom onwards the first month itself was called Thoth. The grave appearance of the ibis was probably the reason why this bird was considered as another personification of Thoth (he is often directly spoken of as “Ibis”), the same may be true of the baboon, whose connexion with Thoth (“great and august Baboon”) dates from much later times.

As the god of wisdom Thoth received the epithet “the Knowing One”, “skilled in knowledge”; it was from books that he derived his learning and power as “great in magic” or “lord of magic”. He was the inventor of writing and the author of the traditional law and order set forth in sacred books. Being himself an “excellent scribe” he was the patron of scribes; in the New Kingdom a seated statue of his baboon was set up in many offices, for he “gave offices to whom he loved”, “made great him who was skilled in his employment” and “promoted to positions”. He was “scribe” or “letter-zvriter” of the gods and “scribe of accounts” of the sun-god. According to the myth he reconciled the two fighting brother gods, Horus and Setekh, and by his magic healed the eye of Horus which had been injured in the fighting, so that it was again “healthy” (udjat) eye. He distinguished the tongues of different countries; perhaps for this reason he was also “lord of foreign lands” as early as the Old Kingdom.

As a scribe Thoth accompanied the sun-god into the underworld and there noted down on his writing palette the results of the weighing of the hearts of the dead. He did it conscientiously, for he “loved truth” and “falsehood was his abomination”.

Quoted from: “Ancient Egyptian religion”, by Jaroslav Černý

Leave a Comment