God of the Month Club: Ammon

I feel really bad about not posting anything for the God Month Club yet, since I’ve been working so hard on Idunna’s post. So I’m posting this directly from my Olympos in Egypt class to save time. I’ll try to do more research later. Enjoy!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ammon, the Unseen One

        Ammon was one of the supreme Gods of Egypt. He is usually pictured as a man with a headdress of two large feathers and the false beard of the Pharaohs. His second form is that of a ram. But He is sometimes pictured with the head of a frog or a cobra, as a lion crouching on a pedestal, or as an ape.

Ammon was believed to be behind the accomplishments of the Pharaoh, and one of the Pharaoh’s protectors. Interestingly, He was also the protector of the common people and patron of justice in all forms. He  protected the weaker from the strong, and before anyone asked Him for a favor they were required to prove their worthiness or confess their sins. He was very popular with all classes, and He was called the vizier of the poor. egyptianmyths.net discusses this interesting dichotomy:

Typically, the strength of a god would add luster to the position of the pharaoh. However, as Amon grew in popularity, his priests grew increasingly powerful in influence and wealth. As such, they often attempted to assert themselves in the political arena. When the queen Hatshepsut found supporters among the priests of Amon, she honored their god by claiming that he was her father and she built her temple in Deir el-Bahri in his honor.

Ironically, such political maneuvering helped to destroy Amon’s popularity. Starting in the reign to Thutmosis IV, a movement began in the royal house to pay homage to a purer form of the sun. The sun-disc Aten slowly became the god of the pharaohs. The situation came to a head during the reign of Akhenaten. During his reign as pharaoh, he moved the capital of Egypt away from Thebes to Akhetaten where he and his followers could worship Aten exclusively. The pharaoh also began a campaign of erasing the name of Amon from the public works of Egypt[1].

 

amun-svg        After Akhenaten died, his successor Tutankhamon moved back to Thebes and restored worship of the old Gods. However, Ammon never fully regained his former standing. At this point the family of Osiris, Isis, and Horus became the primary objects of devotion for the whole country, Pharaoh, noble, and commoner alike.

Ammon was originally a Libyan or Aethiopian God, pictured as a ram and believed to be a protector of their flocks. Ammon’s center of worship was Thebes, and He was also called Kamutef, “The Bull of His Mother” in His ithyphallic form, in which He is said to be His own father. It also alludes to the Mnevis bull cult, a live bull that was considered His manifestation on earth, much like the Apis bull was to Osiris or Ptah. His Temple at Karnek is still the largest religious structure ever built. The more powerful Thebes became, the more important Ammon became. He soon came to be THE Egyptian God, a symbol of national unity.

In the Hermetica, Ammon is written as not just the supreme God, but the God behind all Gods, the unifying power of the Universe that flows through everything and is incomprehensible to mortal (and even most immortal) minds.  Alternative spelling are Amon, Amoun, Amen, Amun, Atum, Hammon and rarely Imen or Yamun. Some of His symbols are  the ram, goose, bull, lion, double plumes, scepter, uraeus, and ram horns. Besides Ra, He is equated with Zeus, Min, and Hermes.

Ammon is self-created out of the waters of Nun, made manifest by the power of His will alone. He created His son Shu, God of Air, out of His spittle, and He vomited up Tefnut, the Goddess of moisture and Shu’s consort. An alternative version of their birth says that Ammon created Them by masturbating. Because He was able to create amunlife without help from another, He is sometimes called “the Great He-She”, alluding to a transsexual nature.

In some versions of the Heliopolian story, even after the birth of Shu and Tefnut, Ammon does not immediately create the world but stays with Them in the watery abyss of Nun. Veronica Ions, author of Egyptian Mythology, takes up the story from here:

 

Shu and Tefnut were brought up in Nun and looked after by Atum’s Eye. … Atum seems only to have had one eye and it was physically separable from him and independent in its wishes. Two important myths relate to this eye, the Udjat. In the first Shu and Tefnut, who were still under Atum’s protection, became separated from him in the dark wastes of the waters of Nun. Atum sent his Eye to look for them and eventually Shu and Tefnut came back with the Eye. While the Eye had been searching for Shu and Tefnut, Atum had replaced it with another, and much brighter one. The first Eye was enraged with Atum at finding itself supplanted when it returned. Atum therefore took the first Eye and placed it on his forehead where it could rule the whole world which he was about to create. The Eye was often depicted as a descriptive goddess – one aspect of the burning sun in Egypt, and associated with the cobra-goddess, Buto or Edjo (my comment: Wadjet), the rearing serpent which was in fact shown in the form of the uraus on the foreheads of the pharaohs, as a symbolic representation of their power.

When Atum was reunited with Shu and Tefnut he wept for joy, and from his tears grew men. With the return of his children, Atum was ready to leave the waters of Nun and to create the world[2].

 

In Hermopolis, the story is quite different. In it, Ammon and His wife Amaunet are only two of the eight Gods Who create the world. The other six are Nun and His wife Naunet, Huh and His consort Hauhet, and Kuk and Kauket. This was called the Ogdoad. When the world was first created these four couples ruled over it and it was a golden age. Ions points out that each of the Goddesses’ names are simply the feminine of the God She is consort too. She also notes that Nun means “water”, Huh, egyptian-gods-3-638“unendingness”, Kuk, “darkness”, and Ammon, “that which is unseen”, which she relates to air. In her opinion these four Gods are personifications of primal elements. In her words, “Amon, if he is to be regarded in the Hermopolitian legend as air or wind, would then represent the force which stirred up the waters out of their stagnant immobility. The power of creation was thus immanent in Nun, but Amon was the essential force which set it in motion.” Interestingly, in Hermopolis the four male Deities of the Ogdoad are pictured with frogs’ heads and the females with that of serpents, connecting Them to the amphibious life of Nun and of the Nile.

In Thebes, Ammon was married to the obscure local guardian Goddess Wosret, Wasret, or Wosyet. Her name means “the powerful”, and She is almost never depicted, and so far no Temples to Her have been identified. In Hermopolis, He was considered a primal creator Deity and married to Amaunet or Amunet , His female counterpart. In other versions He is married to the vulture-Goddess Mut and Their son is the baboon-formed moon God Khonsu. Over time one can see some convergence of Amunet and Mut, as in a few instances vulture amulets are labeled Amunet. However most of the time They remain quite distinct.

 

Amun is, by virtue of being hiddenness itself, ubiquitous, and the idea of hiddenness implies potentiality as well as mystery and otherness. This ubiquity based upon the concept of hiddenness was reinforced by the identification of Amun with the omnipresent breath of life as well as the force of sexuality. Amun’s appeal was by no means abstract, however. Commoners, and especially the poor, could appeal to the omnipresent Amun for justice and compassion (see especially the themes of social justice in the prayers to Amun used as school texts in the Ramesside era, trans. in Lichtheim 1976 vol. 2, 111-112), travelers for protection (as Amun-of-the-Road, see esp. the ‘Report of Wenamun’ in Lichtheim, ibid. 224-230) and kings to legitimize the extension of Egyptian sovereignty into foreign lands (see, e.g., the inscription of Thutmose III in Lichtheim, op cit. p. 30, where Amun commands the king to extend the borders of Egypt). Amun featured in juridical oaths, which is noteworthy inasmuch as it is not Amun-Re but Amun who is invoked, and thus not simply the symbol of royal power but the symbol of all-pervading justice (Widson 1948). Amun’s ubiquity allows him to witness everything that occurs and to hear all requests; stelae are dedicated to “Amun who hears,” and a hymn from Hibis describes him as having “777 ears, with millions upon millions of eyes,” (Klotz 2006, 167, 169f)[3].

 

 

Father of Osiris is Ammon
Osiris, they add, also built a temple to his parents, Zeus and Hera, which was famous both for its size and its costliness in general, and two golden chapels to Zeus, the larger one to him as god of heaven, the smaller one to him as former king and father of the Egyptians, in which role he is called by some Ammon. He also made golden chapels for the rest of the gods mentioned above, allotting honours to each of them and appointing priests to have charge over these. –Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca Historica 1.15

 

When Liber was hunting for water in India, and hadn’t succeeded, ram is said to have sprung suddenly from the ground, and with this as guide he found water. So he asked Jove to put the ram among the stars, and to this day it is called the equinoctial ram. Moreover, in the place where he found water he established a temple which his called the temple of Jove Ammon. –Hyginus  Fabulae 133

 

 

Eventually He became identified with the Sun and so was called Ammon-Ra (or Amun-Ra). Ra represented all that is made manifest, that is, all physical reality, and with Ammon, Lord of the Hidden, They represent all of existence in totality. Diodorus of Sicily said that Ammon is the same as Osiris and Pluto:

 

Osiris has been given the name Sarapis by some, Dionysos by others, Pluto by others, Ammon by others, Zeus by some, and many have considered Pan to be the same God; and some say that Sarapis is the God whom the Greeks call Pluto. — Diodorus Siculus Bibliotheca Historica 1.25

[1]    http://www.egyptianmyths.net/amon.htm

[2]             Veronica Ions. Egyptian Mythology. Hamlyn Publishing Group. 1968. New York. Page 27, 32

[3]    http://henadology.wordpress.com/theology/netjeru/amun/

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