@Susurrus another entry for the Egyptian master post
CHALLENGE ENTRY 3 - Moon Deities
This is a LONG post (sorry) so I just put it in a topic of its own.
Moon Deities in Ancient Egypt
Reverence of the Moon
The moon has been revered in different cultures for thousands of years. The Greeks had Artemis, Selene and Phoebe, the Romans had Diana and Luna, the Norse had Mani and even today, modern Wicca has the Triple Goddess. There are many more deities linked to the Moon from cultures all around the world. Today, we associate the Moon with feminine energy and its related qualities including nurture, empathy, intuition, beauty and emotions. The Moon itself is said to influence the female menstrual cycle, thus further reinforcing the link between it and the divine feminine. So what about Ancient Egypt? Did they have lunar deities? Yes, they did. However, the difference was that they were male, not female and thus, went against the grain of the norm. Although it should be noted that other civilisations had Lunar Gods rather than Goddesses; the Babylonians and Mesopotamians are examples. The two main Egyptian lunar deities were Khonsu and Thoth.
Thoth (Thot, Tehuti. Djehuti)
Thoth is depicted with the body of a human and head of an ibis or simply as an ibis. He often holds a scroll and reed pen in his hands and wears the traditional Egyptian kilt. He is depicted wearing wither a headdress or showing the lunar disc sitting on a crescent Moon. The Ancient Egyptians revered the land and creatures that inhabited it and would often link the local wildlife to their deities. This did NOT mean that they believed that their deities were animals. They were so great that the reality of their existence could not be described – the use of animals was their way of showing their deities in a way that would ensure each was instantly recognised. But why an ibis for Thoth? An ibis would often prod deep into the mud in search of food; this was linked to the search for hidden and buried knowledge. More simply, the long beak resembled the reed pen used by the scribes, thus highlighting Thoth’s link to writing and language. The shape of the beak, resembling a crescent moon, also highlighted Thoth’s lunar connections. Even the mostly white body, with black at the end, resembled the Gibbous Moon when the ibis sat in the marches or took flight.
However, Thoth is also shown at times as a baboon and (very rarely) as a man with a baboon’s head. This association came from the fact that baboons are naturally intelligent and curious creatures, fitting for the God of knowledge and wisdom. The baboon was also seen to regularly sit upright and observe the surroundings, reminiscent of Thoth is in his role observer and recorder of world events. Baboons are also very vocal at night, particularly as the Moon shone brighter. Even today, scientists have noted an increase in baboon’s vocalisation as the moon exerted greater illumination.
The name Thoth means He Like the Ibis. Thoth has a huge number of epithets (too many to write down here) that included Lord of Words, Master of Papyrus, Thoth the Mysterious, Thoth the Wise, He Without a Mother, Lord of Divine Words, Scribe of Ma’at, Reckoner of Time, Opener of Paths and The Great Magician.
Thoth was worshipped as God of many things. These included knowledge, wisdom, writing, language, mathematics and science. Therefore, many Egyptians would seek his guidance on matters linked to learning and solving problems. He is credited with inventing hieroglyphics and therefore, these were viewed as a means with communicating with the Gods The skill of writing was limited to priests and scribes and therefore, it was seen almost as a divine skill. Egyptians often sought Thoth’s guidance and protection to ensure that their life actions were just and balanced. He formed part of the weighing of the heart ceremony in the afterlife and therefore, Egyptians sought his guidance to ensure that what they had done was in line with Ma’at (the principles of justice). His power and magic were also sought by the Egyptians for healing and protection from malignant forces.
What about the Moon? After all, Thoth is a Lunar deity. The Moon played a significant role in how the Egyptians recorded time. Their calendar was based on the Lunar cycle and the Egyptians used the phases of the Moon as signposts to religious festivals and for timing agricultural activities. The Egyptians also used the Moon for navigation on the Nile as the regular pattern and positions proved useful checkpoints. Thoth was also God of time and measurement so it is natural that he would be associated with the Moon as it was an essential means of timekeeping. The eye of Horus, which was plucked from his head by Set is said to be the Moon. Thoth repaired the eye and we see this repair in progress as the Moon moves from the new phase to the full phase.
Interestingly, the eye of Horus is made up of the hieroglyphs representing different fractions that were used by the Egyptians. If the fractions are added up, they equal 63/64. The missing 1/64 can only be given by Thoth to make it whole again, bearing in mind he is the Master of Mathematics.
Both royalty and ordinary person sought guidance from Thoth through oracles. This could be a person or statue. If it was a person, an individual would approach with a request. They would make offerings to Thoth through the oracle, who would go into a trance like state and relay messages from the Gods. If a statue of Thoth was used, the same offerings were made but the person would then look for signs Sometimes, priests would be present to interpret these signs from Thoth. Many people would also write letters to Thoth, leaving them with offerings in hope of guidance. Ibises were often mummified too as they became revered animals in Egyptian society. It was punishable by death to kill an ibis.
We can still worship Thoth today if we wish. Reflect on why you are drawn to him and what aspects of his mythology resonate. Consider your intentions for working with Thoth as he deserves sincerity and respect. Thoth can assist us with learning, understanding complex issues and study. He can also offer assistance when improving communication skills, when trying to improve how we express ourselves and for creative inspiration. Thoth can help us to navigate problems and make informed choices. He can work with us during magickal rituals and when using divination. He may even be incorporated into New and Full Moon rituals.
Offerings of Frankincense and Myrrh, bread, water and wine are suitable for Thoth. On an altar, a statue of the God, images or statues of ibises or baboons, silver candles, feathers, scrolls, papyrus sheets, ink, ink wells, quills, books, Moon images, scribe figurines and amethysts would be representative of Thoth.
Khonsu (Chonsu, Khensu, Khons)
If you are a Marvel fan (I will admit that I am not) and have read or watched Moon Knight, you will be aware that the title character acts as an avatar for a God called Khonshu. This whole idea is based on the Ancient Egyptian God Khonsu (note the subtle spelling difference). He was the son of the creator God Amun and his wife, Mut. Khonsu is often portrayed as a mummy dressed in white, in a similar way to Osiris. He wears the lunar crown on his head and carries a crook and flail. He is also shown with a sidelock oh hair, a symbol of childhood. Alternatively, he is also shown as a man with the head of a falcon, in the same manner as Horus. The only difference is that Khonsu wears the Lunar Crown while Horus wears the Double Crown of Egypt.
The name Khonsu means traveller, navigator or wanderer. His epithets included Pathfinder, Embracer, The Wanderer, The Contriver, He Who Was a Child, The Provider, The Raging One, Reckoner of a Lifetime, The Healer, The Giver of Oracles, He Who Traverses the Sky, He of New Moon and The Second Ra.
Khonsu was worshipped primarily as a God of the Moon and of Timekeeping. His name, meaning wanderer or traveller, was linked to the regular movement of the Moon across the sky. He was worshipped by those who travelled at night as he was said to be their protector. His light was said to illuminate their path and he fought off dangerous animals, that would otherwise harm the travellers. He depicts feminine qualities of empathy, care and nurture through his role of healing God. In his falcon headed form, he carried the ankh, the symbol of life, highlights his role in curing illness and restoring vitality. He recorded the lunar phases and kept records of time and events. In childlike form, Khonsu represented growth, potential and new beginnings, a bit like the cycle of the Moon. Egyptians worshipped him because his control over the Moon determined different aspects of their lives, mainly agriculture. His guidance was also sought for finding auspicious times for different events.
Khonsu did have a dark side, like the Moon. He had destructive powers and was sometimes thought of as being able to cause floods, perhaps from his control of the tides. He was said to cause other natural disasters too as a response to the wrongdoing of others. He punished those who had done wrong, ensuring that they faced the consequences of their actions.
It is possible to seek Khonsu’s guidance today. However, like I said with Thoth, only do this if you are willing to show commitment and respect. Khonsu can be called upon for assistance with healing, both physical and internally. His guidance can be sought for the timing of an upcoming event or in assistance with using the phases of the Moon. He can assist with any Lunar practices including manifesting, releasing and forgiveness. Khonsu can also assist with new beginnings and letting go of old habits as well as finding harmony through solving conflicts and establishing harmony within ourselves and with others.
Offerings of milk, water, wine, beer or bread would be suitable for Khonsu. On an altar, a statue of the God, images or statues of falcons, silver candles, Moon images, sculptures of the moon, watches, clocks or a crook and flail would be representative of Khonsu.
Is there a Link Between Thoth and Khonsu?
The obvious answer here would be yes because they are both associated with the Moon and to time. Where did this shared association come from? I am going to summarise a myth called The Game of the Moon which may shed light on the answer to this question:
Khonsu, the God of the Moon was jealous. He desired to find and understand the knowledge that was hidden where his light did not shine. Only one person could access this knowledge…Thoth. He challenged Thoth to a game of Senet (an Ancient Egyptian board game that’s great fun to play!). Thoth agreed and said that if he lost, he would reveal hidden knowledge. In return, Khonsu would offer some of his light if he lost. Time passed and each player had one piece left on the board. Khonsu cast sticks. He couldn’t move on the board. Thoth cast sticks and removed his final piece from the board, winning the game. Thoth took a portion of the moon light and placed it in his crown, thus becoming a Lunar deity. Thoth used this light to add 5 more days to the 360 day year, creating a 365 day year.
So it would appear that Khonsu was the original Lunar deity but had to enter a power share with Thoth after losing a wager. Perhaps we could think of Khonsu as the feminine aspect of the Moon that we often think of today – healing, nurture, care, while Thoth is more masculine and focused on the academic side of things – timings, calendars and such. Either way, they both share differences as well as their unique characteristics, demonstrating why the Ancient Egyptians placed great importance on them both.
I hope this was both informative and enjoyable
Jackson, L (2020) Thoth: A History of the Ancient God of Wisdom
Nephtys, Lady (2016) The Egyptian Gods and Goddesses for Beginners
Moon over the Nile: (Moonrise on the Nile (WikiMedia))
Thoth Papyrus: (Thoth Papyrus: Exemplore)
Fraction Eye: (Eye of Horus - Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Khonsu: (Reddit - Dive into anything)
Senet Game: (thoth | VoVatia)