Posts Tagged ‘babboon’
Isis may be the more famous “witch-deity” of ancient Egypt, and Thoth is viewed in later mythology as her assistant, but Thoth is actually the older of the two; and perhaps: the more subtly powerful. Indeed, in the Old Kingdom, at a period when the city of Hermopolis/Khmun ruled over the Egyptian landscape: Thoth was a leader of the main pantheon of gods, known as the Ogdoad, where he represented the moon. The curve of the crescent moon, so closely resembling the beak of the ibis bird earned Thoth his name and totem animal. The name “Thoth” is the anglicized version of the Greco-Roman Tehuti, from the hieratic “dhwty” (believed to be pronounced something along the lines of ‘dee-how-ti’ or ‘do-out’), which means “he who is (or is like) the ibis.” The association with the ibis is also a reference to early creation myths where Thoth took the form of an ibis during the formation of the world. In some of the earlier creation myths, it was believed that it was Thoth who technically created the world, sometimes in his own capacity, and sometimes acting as the force behind the creative thought of another, higher god, typically the god Ra.
Thoth was believed to be the philosophical power or force of thought (hence his wife Maat’s specific role as the idea of good and pure thought). He was the action which turns thought into being. Thus he is also attributed with the creation of both speech and writing: those two arts, so taken for granted in the modern world, but which allow mankind to communicate their thoughts to one another. Thoth therefore represented the idea of translated knowledge; and when knowledge is power, the person or deity responsible for it and its communication holds the proverbial key to the Upper and Lower Kingdom.
The idea of Thoth and the importance of speech and writing were so important and well recognized in ancient Egypt that most prayers thank Thoth for the ability to communicate with the divine, even if they are actually trying to communicate with a different god more specifically. One of Thoth’s many attributed epithets is “He who listens to prayers,” which is a sort of ancient joke: if Thoth is invoked in every prayer, he therefore gets to hear every prayer and can eavesdrop on the conversations of the other gods and their parishioners. Even in death, funerary prayers were not addressed just to the more direct gods of the dead, but also to Thoth.
The written and spoken word were both considered powerful magicks. Spoken magick relied not just on everyday speech, but on using the correct pronunciation, tone, and cadence when speaking; and these were facets of what was taught in the texts and temples of Thoth. Most, if not all writing, was initially considered magickal. For: in being able to read and write, one was literally channeling the power of Thoth into a concrete and physical form. And it involved a high degree of controllable training in order to both read the symbols and recreate them as writing. Thoth was therefore the god of scribes and palace administrators; and he was invoked in almost all forms of written communication, including that between the ruling powers and foreign dignitaries. Though not the patron deity of many of the Pharaonic dynasties, he was powerful enough to be integral to their rule.
The written word gave the power of Thoth a corporeal form which could be physically used in magickal rituals. Eating words was supposedly a way in which the magickal power of the texts and the heka of Thoth could be channeled directly into the consumer.
He could also grant the deceased further gifts for the Underworld if he felt so inclined. And if, in reading the ib, he encountered a powerful mage or witch to his liking, he might employ their soul further to do his bidding. The ancient Egyptians believed there were many aspects to the soul, and this is partially responsible for the complex and unique funerary arrangements for which they are so famous. But other than the ib, the other aspect of the soul which specifically intrigued Thoth was called akh. The akh was the ‘effective intellect’ or magickal knowledge which the person may have possessed. If the tomb was disturbed, thereby disrupting the ability of the various aspects of the soul to unite: it was the akh which would come back and, for lack of a better word: haunt the tomb or the robbers who desecrated its final resting place. In this sense, the akh might be considered a type of ghost. If, when Thoth assessed the soul, he found the akh of the deceased particularly powerful, he would offer them a role as one of his or Isis’ magickal companions (or in some instances enslave them). These elite groups of akh spirits existed as a semi-divine co-hort of minions which the two sunnu or priests of the gods, Isis and Thoth could call upon to enhance the strength of their own heka or send out on individual missions.
For more on Thoth and other witch deities of the ancient world, look forward to the College of the Sacred Mists upcoming class History of Witches in the Western World, taught by yours truly.