The Goddess Isis

Reblogging this oooollllddddd post about Isis for the God of the Month Club ….

Temple of Athena the Savior

If somebody were to take a poll of the most popular Goddesses in modern Paganism, I’d wager that Isis would be one of the highest ranking, somewhere with Hekate, jr117-5df1083a-e8dd-43c3-9cdb-00de34924f73-v2.jpgArtemis and Bridged. Yet, some of Her basic functions are misunderstood. Nowadays Isis is most often depicted with Her horns-and-disk headdress, but in antiquity she was shown with a throne atop Her head. After all, Isis, or Aset in the native Egyptian, is the feminine of the word for “Throne”, hence “Female of the Throne”, i.e. “Queen of the Throne”. Aset is a very ancient Deity. Some believe that She was originally a Nubian Goddess Whose worship spread to Egypt very early on. First mentions of Her name begin in the Fifth Dynasty (2494 to 2345 BCE) of the Old Kingdom. Aset was originally a somewhat obscure Deity. She was a protector of the Pharaoh and symbol of his power. The…

View original post 2,185 more words


GMC: Zeus-Ammon, the Hellenistic Form of Ammon

Zeus, Father of Gods and men, was one of the most important Gods in Makedonia, as zeus-ammonHe was in most of Greece. He was in fact called by the title Panhellenios, “Of All the Greeks”. He is the only Greek God I have seen referred to like this. You see, some times Gods shared titles. Both Zeus and Dionysos are called Soter (“Savior”), and Athena was called Soteira, which is the feminine form.

Ammon, which means “Hidden” in Egyptian, is by coincidence very similar to ammos, the Greek word for sand. So among the first Greeks to encounter Ammon, Zeus-Ammon was also a kind pun. It meant to them “Sandy Zeus”, which is very appropriate for a God of a country that is primarily desert. Ammon and Zeus were related very early on:


Moreover, most people believe that Amoun is the name given to Zeus in the land of the Egyptians, a name which we, with a slight alteration, pronounce Ammon[1].


Some writers said that not only are Zeus and Ammon the same Deity, but is the same as the Jewish God, Who Celsus called Sabaoth, and basically every God called “the zeus_ammonHighest God”, or the King of the Gods in each pantheon. He explicitly states that it makes no difference which one you invoke[2]. Roman author Minucius Felix comments on the various depictions of Zeus and/or Jupiter:


What is your Jupiter himself? Now he is represented in a statue as beardless, now he is set up as bearded; and when he is called Hammon, he has horns; and when Capitolinus, then he wields the thunderbolts; and when Latiaris, he is sprinkled with gore; and when Feretrius, he is not approached; and not to mention any further the multitude of Jupiters, the monstrous appearances of Jupiter are as numerous as his names. – Minucius Felix, Octavius


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 1.25


Zeus is not a God Who is popular with Neo-Pagans. As a Sky-Father, He probably reminds many people of Yahweh, the Christian Father that many Pagans are running from, including myself in my earlier years. Zeus has been called authoritarian. The fact is, someone has to take responsibility. As much as we love Them, the world cannot be made up entirely of trickster Gods. There has to be order. There have to be boundaries, there have to rules, or there is no meaning in a trickster God crossing the boundaries, no rules to break in the first place.

Even the ancient Greeks didn’t quite know what to think about Him. Homer saw Him as a principle of abstract justice. Yes, He could be temporarily distracted. True, He was partial to a few humans, his children especially, but what God didn’t have a favorite among mortals? But ultimately, He cannot be deterred from acting out justice. Aischylos, the playwright who wrote Prometheus Bound, thought He was a evil, selfish, drunken tyrant. Euripides saw Him as destiny, “He who brings the unthought to be.” Poets wrecked hell with some of the stories. Plato vehemently declared the poets to be liars. As I said before, the myths are not literal truth.

Socrates and his disciples believed that Zeus represented unity, and his followers discarded many of the myths surrounding Zeus as blasphemous. Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of those myths were the tales of His sexual exploits. But they also cut out His jolly and playful sense of humor, and tried to make Him a more philosophical and severe God. This is one of the reasons that the Athenians didn’t like Socrates, and he was even accused of atheism.

Zeus was sometimes called simply The Good God. He was the protector of travelers and strangers especially, and was the God who upheld Xenia, the law of hospitality. Anyone who violated the sacred bond of host and guest had Him to deal with. Murders were another crime He especially hated, and He sent the Furies to pursue those who committed them. Zeus was also the God who made sure that you kept your oaths. Both He and Haides were invoked in oaths, and both saw that anyone who willfully violated an oath was punished.

As ruler of the sky, Zeus is the God of weather, called the “cloud-gatherer”. His legendary weapon was the lightening bolt. In ancient times, temples to Zeus were built where lightening had hit the ground. They were also built on mountain-tops.

Some might be surprised to learn that Zeus is also a household God, as well as God of the State. He was considered the God who protected the pantry, where He was believed to guard the family’s food in the shape of a serpent. Zeus is associated with the family as well. He is the Divine Husband, and He is a loving father to His children, if a strict one at times. Under the title of Zeus the Mild, He is a protector of children. Oddly enough, in this same aspect He is considered a Khthonic Deity, meaning He is associated with the Earth and with Death. In this aspect He was  depicted as either a bull, or a snake, again. He is also God of Purification, an aspect He shares with His son Apollon.

Zeus’s most sacred animal is the eagle, which is He sends to earth with omens for seers to read. The bull, the goat, the wolf, and the serpent are all holy to Him as well. His trees are the oak and the white poplar. Some of his other symbols include the ram’s horns, lightning bolt, scepter, aegis, and honey. Some of Zeus’s titles are Loud-Thundering, Good Counselor, the Purifying, He Who Rejoices, Earthly, Son of Kronos, Ktesios (Who Protects Provisions), Wolf, Cloud-Gatherer,  Father, and Savior. (for a more complete list, and the names in Greek, see: or Zeus is Equated with Jupiter, Ba’al, Ammon, Ra, Seth, Serapis, Helios, Ptolemy Soter, and the Emperor Hadrian.


“To whom the Sun has given victory, the living image of Zeus, Ptolemy, living for ever.” – The Rosetta Stone [the Greek portion]


But from Zeus come kings; for nothing is diviner than the kings of Zeus. Wherefore thou didst choose them for thine own lot, and gavest them cities to guard. And thou didst seat thyself in the high places of the cities, watching who rule their people with crooked judgements, and who rule otherwise. And thou hast bestowed upon them wealth and prosperity abundantly; unto all, but not in equal measure. One may well judge by our Ruler, Ptolemy, for he hath clean outstripped all others. At evening he accomplisheth what whereon he thinketh in the morning; yea, at evening the greatest things, but the lesser soon as he thinketh on them. But the others accomplish some things in a year, and some things not in one; of others, again, thou thyself dost utterly frustrate the accomplishing and thwartest their desire. Hail! greatly hail! most high Son of Kronos, giver of good things, giver of safety. Thy works who could sing? There hath not been, there shall not be, who shall sing the works of Zeus. Hail! Father, hail again! And grant us goodness and prosperity. Without goodness wealth cannot bless men, nor goodness without prosperity. Give us goodness and weal.” – Kallimakhos, Hymn to Zeus 80-93


            Ammon was one of the supreme Gods of Egypt. He was believed to be behind the accomplishments of the Pharaoh, and one of the Pharaoh’s protectors. He was originally a Libyan or Aethiopian God, pictured as a ram and believed to be a protector of their flocks.

Eventually He became identified with the Sun and so was called Ammon-Ra (or Amun-Ra).  In the Hermetica, Atum 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.


The Ennead combined is Your body.
Every god joined in Your body, is Your image.
You emerged first, You inaugurated from the start.
Amun, whose name is hidden from the gods.
Oldest elder, more distinguished than these,
Tatenen, who formed [Himself] by Himself as Ptah.
The toes of His body are the Eight (Ogdoad).
He appeared as Re, from Nun, so that He might rejuvenate.
He sneezed, as Atum, from His mouth and gave birth to
Shu and Tefnut, combined in manifestation
-Hymns to Amun, Leiden Papyrus I (c. 1250 BC), Chapter XC


As Zeus-Ammon He became known throughout the entire Greco-Roman world. Pindar even wrote an ode to Him. Herodotus tells a myth of how Zeus came to be associated with the ram. In this story, as Herakles (Hercules) wanted to speak directly with Zeus. However, Zeus could not reveal Himself in His true form without killing the then-mortal Herakles, so He wore the head of ram and covered His body with its skin.

Besides Zeus, Ammon was equated with Ra, Min, Hermes and Jupiter. The Romans called Him Jupiter-Hammon. Alternative spelling are Amon, Amoun, Amen, Amun, Imen, Hammon. Some of His symbols are the ram, goose, bull, lion, double plumes, scepter, uraeus, and ram horns.

[1]    Plutarch. On Isis and Osiris. 10

[2]    Celsus in Origen’s Contra Celsum 5.41

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. 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


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


GMC: Anubis, Opener of the Way

Anubis-1-1Anubis is the canid Egyptian God of the dead. He protected the pieces of Osiris’ body while Isis collected them, so that He could eventually be resurrected. He oversees mummification and so is associated with immortality. His center of worship was in uten-ha/Sa-ka/, which the Greeks simply called Cynopolis, “Dog City”. His worship alongside Isis in Rome was maintained at least up until the second century.

His name in the native Egyptian is most often transliterated as Ienpw (phonetically “Yinepu”), but is also Anpu, Anupu, Anbu, Wip, Inepu, Imeut, Inpu, and Inpw. An alternative Greek spelling is Anoubis.


Even the meaning of his name is unknown — speculations range from “Royal Child” to having derived from the world for “to putrefy”. Both certainly fit the deity, who was at various points in time of Egyptian history known as the lord of the dead before Osiris and, later, became popularly known as the son of Osiris[1].


Among His other titles are Chief of the Necropolis, Counter of Hearts, Who Is in the Mummy Wrappings, Prince of the Court of Justice, Prince of the Divine Court, Undertaker, download.pngWeigher of Righteousness,  Jackal Ruler, He Who is in the Place of Embalming, Lord of the Sacred Land and Khenti-Amentiu (Foremost of Westerners), a title He shares with Osiris. His title Jackal Ruler of the Bows is because in earlier myths He is said to have defeated the Nine Bows, which is just a name for the collective enemies of Egypt. His title of He Who Is upon His Mountain refers to His importance as the protector of the tombs of the dead. So important was this protection that the tombs of the Pharaohs were sealed with an image of Anubis.

In the Old Kingdom, Anubis was the most important God of the dead. By the Middle Kingdom that honor was taken by Osiris, but Anubis was important enough that He was incorporated into Osiris’ mythos as the later God’s son by His sister Nephthys.


Anubis’s parentage is a mystery — in one tradition he is the son of Nebt-het (Nephthys) and Ra. In yet another, from the Coffin Text period, the cow goddess Hesat is his mother and, from the same source, Bastet is even accounted as his mother (most likely a pun on the ointment jars that comprise her hieroglyphs — the same jars that were used during the embalming process Anubis was lord of). The Pyramid Texts even supply Anubis with a daughter in the form of the goddess Qeb-hwt (“Cooling Water”) — a celestial serpent or ostrich Who purifies and quenches the monarch[2].


download (1)Hesat was later identified with Hathor, or Isis, so that is an interesting connection. The Jumilhac Papyrus frequently names Anubis as the son of Osiris and of Isis, but He is also identified with Horus a lot in this text. By the most common story, Nephthys, the sister of Isis and Osiris and wife of Their brother Set, is Anubis’ mother. Nephthys longed for a child, but Her husband Set was God of the barren wasteland of the desert, and so was incapable of having children. Nephthys fell in love with Osiris, and when Osiris was drunk She tricked Him into believing She was Isis and slept with Him. The result of the union was Anubis, but by the time He was born She regretted Her decision. Fearful of Her husband’s anger, abandoned the baby in the desert. For the first few years of His life, He was raised by wild dogs, which is where He gets His feral power. Eventually He was discovered by Isis. Even though Isis knew He was the son of Her husband by Her sister, She raised Him as Her own. Anubis is often shown by Isis’s side, in full-jackal form. Because He was abandoned by His mother, He is the protector of orphans, the homeless, the poor, travelers, and all lost souls or people who are downtrodden.

Anubis’ wife is said to named Anput, but there is not much information about Her. That is because She is really Anubis’ female aspect. Her same is simply the feminine of Anubis. They have a daughter named Kebechet, whose name means “cooling water”. She is basically the deification of embalming fluid. I’ve found some references of Bast as the sister, mother, or wife of Anubis. An equal amount of modern sources claim this is false and that it is a modern invention. says that He was thought of being married to Bast because of His connection to the perfumes and ungents that were used in embalming, and Bast is the Lady of the Perfume Jar. This may not be an ancient idea, this does not completely invalidate it. While it is important to be aware of the sources of such perceptions, modern gnosis or religious experiences are just as valid as ancient ones.  And I personally believe that the Gods themselves can grow and change as time goes on, if They see fit. But there was never one truth in ancient times either. In any case, I am including a quote regarding this theory from Per Yinepu, a virtual Temple to Anubis:


The entire history of Kemet is littered with dual-aspecting, syncretism, pairings and triads, the idea that Yinepu is the Husband of Bast is not one for which I could find any precedent in the theology of the ancients. If anything, it appears to be a modern invention transposed from the affinity people of today’s world have with their common pets: the 402c9e7547288ba597e3dfb7db35fdbedomesticated dog and cat. However, it may be through a late Hellenic invention that we find Yinepu identified as the Brother of Bast.

Much later in Egyptian history there may have been an identification of Yinepu with Heru, who was identified with Apollo by the Hellenes during a time in ancient history when Hellenic culture began to influence Kemetic. Furthermore, Bast being identified with Artemis, it would follow, then, for the Hellenes that Bast and Heru were Divine Twins, so it may have been this association that Yinepu became a sibling of Bast[3]


Anubis is always pictured as a deep black color (gray jackal or wolf-headed pictures are of Wepwawet). This is symbolic of His job as a funerary Deity, but in Egypt black was also a color of rebirth, associated with the black silt deposited every year by the Nile[4]. The reason Anubis is pictured as a jackal is from an observation the ancient Egyptians made, namely that wild dogs, coyotes, and jackals haunted the edges of the desert, particularly around the necropolises and places of the dead. M. Isidora Forrest tells us more about the Egyptian’s relationship to a different kind of canine:


It is well known that ancient Egyptian loved their pet cats. But the Egyptians also kept anubis_balancedogs and loved them equally. In fact, dogs were part of Egyptian life since prehistoric times. Egyptian cave paintings show human beings hunting with their dogs. Unlike the ancient Egyptian custom for most other animals, Egyptians gave their dogs name, just as we do. Sometimes they called them by human names; sometimes they were named for their chief characteristic. Inscribed on dog collars, several names of dogs have come down to us. We know of dogs named Grabber, Ebony, Best Friend, and Cooking Pot (perhaps he had a belly as large as a cooking pot!). In tomb paintings, dogs are represented with their owners and continued as their loyal companions in the Otherworld[5].


Anubis was said to have invented not only embalming, but the very idea of funerals themselves. The chief priest who performed a embalming even wore an Anubis costume! When he did so, He ritually became Anubis Himself and was called the Overseer of the Mysteries. Especially while in His embalming aspect, He was strongly associated with the anubis6imiut fetish, an ancient symbol that we know virtually nothing about. Imiut may have been an early God absorbed by Anubis. The imiut fetish was a skin of a panther or cow hung on a pole and planted in a pot. Sometimes it had a papyrus or lotus blossom attached to the tail.


Although the fetish was often made with a real animal skin wrapped in bandages, stylized versions were also popular. A set of beautiful golden Imiut fetishes were discovered in Tutankhamun´s tomb and the fetish makes a few appearances in Hatshepsut´s mortuary temple.

The fetish was sometimes known as the “Son of the hesat-Cow”, referring to the cow that gave birth to the Mnevis bull which was associated with the cow goddess Hesat (one of the goddesses named as the mother of Anubis). It was clearly an ancient symbol, already in widespread use by the First Dynasty.

Its purpose and meaning of the object have not been confirmed, but it is thought that the fetish was linked to the bandages used in mummification and it was apparently important in the celebrations of the “heb sed” (royal jubilee) festival[6].


Anubis is a liminal God, Who lives on the edge between night and day, between this world and the next. He is a psychopomp, a God Who guides the souls of the dead to the Hall of Judgment, where before Osiris He weighs the heart of the dead soul on the Scales of Ma’at. The heart is weighted against the feather of Ma’at, the Goddess of justice, universal downloadharmony, and right order. If the heart was heavy with guilt and sins, than it was thrown to the monster Ammit to be devoured. If, however, the heart was found to be as light as Ma’at’s feather, then the soul of the deceased was allowed to pass into the afterlife. 42 Gods watched the ceremony, and Thoth recorded the outcome. But the weighing itself was done by Anubis, Counter of Hearts. Veronica Ions, author of Egyptian Mythology, elaborates on Anubis’ position as God of death:


It seems that at first Anubis was the god of death for the pharaoh alone. It is thought that in early times the pharaoh may have been ritually put to death by viper poisoning at the end of twenty-eight years’ reign. When the end came Anubis (or a priest representing him) would appear to the pharaoh with a viper. Though this practice ended, Anubis remained the announcer of death, … it is interesting in this connection that Osiris was murdered after twenty-eight years on the throne.

As he could foresee a mortal’s destiny, Anubis was associated with magic and divination. He was depicted at the bottom of divination bowls, so that the seer saw Anubis first, leading the other gods who could come to reveal the secrets of the future[7].


Anubis’ star is Sirius, the Dog Star. The Egyptians called the star Sopdet. It is twice as big as our sun and twenty times brighter. M. Isidora Forrest gives us some more scientific information about this star, which was also related to Anubis’ foster mother Isis:


It is a binary star system and has a companion, Sirius B, a white dwarf that cannot be seen with the naked eye. Sirius B is a dying star, a collapsing in on itself. As Sirius A and Sirius B dance in orbit around each other, B’s heavier mass pulls on A and cause the pair to move in a spiraling, wobbling path through the sky. Sirius is the lead star n the constellation Canis Majoris (the Big Dog), and so it is also called the Dog Star. ….

Our name Sirius is a Latin version of the star’s Greek epithet seirios, which means scorching. Sirius was the seirios aster, the scorching atar, so called because it first becomes visible in the heat of late summer. The Greek name for that star is Sothis, a Hellenized version of the Egyptian name, Sopdet.

Sopdet was important to the Egyptians because, in ancient times, the heliacal, dawn rising of the star marked the beginning of the Egyptian New Year, a time of great joy. Sopdet can be seen in the northern hemisphere for most of the year, but it seems to disappear for about seventy days, from late May to just after midsummer. During this time, the star is in conjunction with the Sun’s greater apparent light blocks our view of the star.

The heliacal rising occurs when the star comes out of solar conjuction (my comment: symbolically leaving the Underworld) and can be seen on the horizon just before sunrise. Over the millenia, the date of the star’s rising has shifted. In 3000 BCE at Memphis in Egypt, Sopdet would have risen on or near the summer solstice. Today, it rises in late July.  When the star rises in your area depends on your latitude. The further north you are, the later the star appears to rise[8].


Anubis, at a basic level, is a guide. He guides us to the afterlife, and when we have lost our way. He cares for all lost souls. Anubis is a Messenger, carrying messages from the living to their deceased loved ones on the other side, and back again. His title of Opener of the Way can be interpreted in many different ways. It originally referred to Anubis opening the way into the afterlife to take the deceased soul to the Hall of Judgment. But why can it not work the other way around? It can be interpreted as Anubis opening the veil, just a little, to assist the living diviner or medium to see the future or speak with the dead. It has certainly been my experience that He stands between me and the spirit world, working as the bridge between this world and the next. I really feel like I am not responsible for whatever comes through when I doing readings. I actually feel quite uncomfortable when I get compliments on my “ability”. I feel all the credit goes to Anubis. He just tells me what to do or say. On the occasions when I have gotten something wrong, it was because my head told me something different than my gut, and instead of listening to Anubis I over-thought it. Anubis has never spoken to me in words, unlike with Athena. In only happens on rare occasions, but I have heard Athena’s voice in a literal sense in a few instances. Anubis communicates differently. I’ve seen Him once or twice, for a split second in the corner of my eye, or in full jackal form following me to my car at night. But He never speaks to me. He stands guard silently and stoically. He might growl, or whine, but usually communication with Him is felt in the body, at least with me. He has taught me a new way of communicating and thinking of the world. He speaks in instinct, in gut feelings, the hair raising on the back of your neck, the tight feeling in your chest, that sudden flash of insight.




[4]Charles Freeman, The Legacy of Ancient Egypt, Facts on File, Inc. 1997. p.91

[5]M. Isidora Forrest. Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols. Llewellyn. 2005. Page 131.


[7]Veronica Ions. Egyptian Mythology.

[8]M. Isidora Forrest. Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols. Llewellyn. 2005. Page 284.

Who or what is Ma’at?

          Ma’at is both the concept and the Goddess of “right order” — truth, justice, order, harmony with the Kosmos and with other human beings, and piety. She is the fundamental order of the Kosmos. Ma’at is not just one thing. The title of this book is “Doing Ma’at”, which refers to the fact Ma’at can also be an action. You are doing Ma’at when you speak the truth. You are doing Ma’at when you are generous to the less fortunate and respectful to your elders.

But intangible things are also Ma’at. Beauty and justice and harmony are all Ma’at. Ma’at is piety and reverence before the Gods and before holy things. H. Jeremiah Lewis,  the founder of Neos Alexandria and author of  “A Temple of Words” and “Balance of the Two Lands” adds that


It is Ma’at which the sun follows as it makes its circuit through the heavens, and which causes the moon and stars to light the earth at night. Ma’at is what makes the river to flood and recede and the seasons to come at their rightful times, one after the other. Ma’at makes the trees fruitful and the animals to bear their young. Ma’at is the strong walls that keep buildings standing for centuries. It is the canons of proportion and style that allow artists to make their beautiful images which please men and gods alike. Ma’at is the scale of notes which the musician employs and the mathematical principles upon which all the sciences are based … Ma’at is all this and much more besides – and all of these things, partaking of Ma’at, share a similar nature. Thus, it is merely a matter of convention which allows us to speak of piety and justice and beauty and order as separate things[1].


The Egyptian principle of Ma’at satisfies something deep within me, the need for a cosmic order and justice. Every small but righteous act we do causes Ma’at to increase and grow stronger, and Isfet, Her opposite, chaos and disorder, to decease. One cannot exist where the other thrives. It is our duty to do Ma’at, to act justly in our dealings with others and with the natural world. Through Ma’at we come to see ourselves as part of a larger system, a great community of men and Gods and all that is. Small actions add up, and have long-term consequences. These righteous actions are themselves offerings to the Gods, and through doing Ma’at we reach a more perfect state and draw closer to Them.

In Egyptian belief, when a person has passed on their ba, or soul, traveled to the Hall of Judgment. Once there, the soul will recite the 42 Declarations of Innocence before Ma’at, and the Declarations to the 42 Gods in attendance. (These pretty much say the same thing as the Declarations of Innocence in a different way, but I have included both for you to study.) Then Anubis weighs the heart of the individual against the Feather of Ma’at. If the heart is heavy with sin and guilt, then it is thrown to the monster Ammit, to be devoured and the soul extinguished. But if the person has lived a good and just life, then his heart will be as light as Ma’at’s feather, and he will be allowed in pass the Hall of Judgment and enter the Western Lands, the afterlife.

It is on Ma’at’s scale that we weighed, so remember Her always. Avoid hurting anyone whenever possible, and that includes yourself. Never make a promise you do not fully intend to keep, and once you have taken a vow, do everything you can to fulfill it. Do not speak ill of any God. Always do your best, and live your ideals. We are human, and we will sometimes stumble and fall short of our own expectations. But the important thing to do is to pick ourselves back up and try again. Only then can we truly say that we are living in Ma’at.


Suggested Links:

[1]Lewis, Jeremiah H. The Balance of Two Lands: Writings on Greco-Egyptian Polytheism. 2009.

GMC: Hathor

The sky and the stars make music to You.
The sun and the moon praise You.
The Gods exalt You.ThaliaTook-hathor
The Goddesses sing to You.

The Temple of Dendera, Ptolemaic Period


The Egyptian Gods are collectively referred to as the Neteru, Netjeru or Netjer. Kemet is the real name for Egypt, which means “the Black Land”, referring to the fertile black soil of the Nile. So Kemetic Paganism is the term for Egyptian Reconstructionist types of Pagans.

Hathor, or Het-Hert (HwtHrw, Hethert) in the native Egyptian, means “House of Heru (Horus)”, or “The House Above”. Hathor is often called the Heavenly Cow. The term “house” of Horus refers to the sky which envelops the falcon-God. She is the great love of Horus. Their sacred marriage was celebrated every year when the statue of Hathor in Denderah was taken by boat up the river to the Temple of Horus the Elder at Edfu. Some tales say that it is from Their union that Horus the Younger is born, not by Isis. Even when Horus the Younger is the child of Isis, Hathor is often depicted as His nurse. Hathor and Horus also have another son, Ihy, a God of joy and music. He is depicted as a young naked boy (young children of both sexes were allowed to run naked in ancient Egypt), often sucking on one of His fingers. He wears the crown of Upper Egypt and the braided sidelock of youth, and He usually carries a sistrum, a musical instrument often used in religious rites. In the Coffin Texts and the Book of the Dead, Ihy is called the Lord of Bread. Hathor can also be considered the mother, consort, or daughter of Ra.

Hathor is the Egyptian Goddess of love, joy, beauty, beer, and all the joys and wonders of life. She is the protector of women at all stages of their lives, and a kindly friend to the deceased, who She guides to rebirth. Hathor is one of the most ancient Deities, worshiped all the way back to the 1st Dynasty of the Old Kingdom. Although the patroness of women, Hathor had a large following of men as well. Who would not want the Goddess of Joy and Happiness in their lives?

She is depicted several different ways. The most common is a broad-faced woman with the downloadears of a cow. This sounds strange in writing, but in reality is quite beautiful and elegant. She’s also one of the few Egyptian Deities to be shown full-face instead of in profile. She is also depicted in complete cow-form, but with a crown of the sun-disk, two plumes of feathers, and the cow’s horns. When pictured as a cow, if She is without the crown you can tell Her from other cows by Her eyes – always made up with beautiful make-up. When in bovine form, Hathor is typically shown emerging from a papyrus thicket, calling to mind Her job of wet-nurse for Horus the Younger when He was hidden in the marshes from Set. The eye of the bovine Hathor is often rendered in the form of the wedjat.

She is sometimes referred to in plural form, as the Seven Hathors. This form is usually only depicted on funerary monuments and in other references to the afterlife. But also when She is present as a midwife at the birth of children (especially royal ones), after which each of the Hathors makes a prophecy about the future and/or personality of the child. She is also pictured as a sycamore tree with the face and breasts of a woman, another symbol She shares with Isis. Very rarely Hathor is pictured with four faces, in which case She is called Temit, or Temet, which means “The Universal One”, and in this form She is the feminine counterpart of Ammon. Hathor’s face was used to adorn many household objects, particularly mirrors and sistrims.  So when looking at your reflection in the mirror, you would also see Hathor’s image gazing back at you.

The sycamore fig was the most common tree in Egypt. Egypt was often called the Land of the Sycamore, and early word for sycamore came to be used for all trees in general. It can grow to be eighty-five feet high, and frequently grew along rivers. Although it is technically semi-deciduous, it is almost always has it leaves. The sycamore was one of the most useful trees to the ancient Egyptians. Its wood is sturdy, light, and waterproof. It was used for everything from tools to furniture to architectural supports. When the bark is pounded, its sap creates a natural latex resin, which the Egyptians called the Tears of the Sycamore.

Hathor, Isis, and Nut are allcalled Nebet Nuhet, the Lady of the Sycamore. As the sycamore Egyptian-Goddess-Hathor2tree with the face and breasts of the Goddess, it is shown in funerary texts as providing cool water from Her breasts to rejuvenate the soul of the dead and sheltering the soul in her branches. In many versions of the Isis and Osiris tale, when the coffin of Osiris drifted down the Nile and landed, a sycamore tree grew up around it overnight. In ancient times all of the dead were associated with Osiris, but during Ptolemaic and Roman periods it came to be more gender-segregated. That is, the dead man would be associated with Osiris, and a dead woman would be identified with “the Hathor” in coffin inscriptions instead.

The sycamore could produce seven crops of figs per year. The fig has its own symbolism, but the sycamore fig is different from the common fig. The sycamore fig was the more sacred of the two, and connected to Isis and Hathor. The fig was also a symbol of compassion and mercy, because it was used in medicinal treatments for various ailments. The fig is filled with a white, milky substance, linking it back to motherhood, nourishment, and the Divine Cow.

  1. Isidora Forrest, the author of Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols, tells us about another meaning of the fig: its relation to female sexuality.


The fig, which plumps and reddens as it ripens to honey sweetness, has been seen by many cultures to represent the female vulva. An Etruscan and Roman protective talisman still used today – and which is at least as old as the worship of Isis in Italy – pairs the fig and vulva explicitly. It is the mano fico or figa, the “fig hand” or simply “fig”. The talisman represents a hand gesture in which the thumb is placed between the index and middle fingers and the hand curled into a loose fist. With a little imagination, it looks like the clitoris peeking out from between the labia, for figa is an ancient slang term for female genitals. Some figa talismans were made of blood coral, probably [so that] the wearer invoked the life-sustaining blood of the vulva of the Goddess as protection[1].

The cow is a symbol of nourishment and motherhood, gentleness, generosity and abundance, fertility and wealth. As the Great Cow, Hathor nourishes the world, the Pharaoh and the dead in particular. A cow and a bull can provide everything a family needs in life: milk, meat, and a beast of burden to plow the fields. Hathor mothers the Sun and rises him in Her horns into the sky. In some of the creation myths, that is how the Sun was first separated from the primordial waters – lifted between the horns of a cow. When pictured as a dark blue cow with stars scattered across Her body, Hathor is related to Nuit, the celestial sky Goddess Who gives birth to the Sun every morning and swallows it again each night.

The Pharaoh was sometimes shown drinking the milk of a cow with stars on Her body. By doing so, he absorbed Her Divine powers. Milk was also a symbol of purity to the ancient Egyptian, because of its pure white color. Making a libation of milk was in and of itself a ritual of purification. White was the color of holiness and joy. Someone who was cheerful would be described as being white, the same way that we could call such a person bright or sunny. Sacred cows were kept for Hathor in several places. The most important could probably be said to be at Momemphis in the southwest Delta, who was known as “She Who Remembers Horus”.


Hathor and Precious Stones

As the Lady of Lapis-Lazuli, Mistress of Malachite, and Lady of Turquoise, Hathor has connections to metal and precious stones, their beauty and their magical properties. She is also connected to the metals copper and gold, and was often called simply The Golden Goddess (much like Aphrodite in Greece). She was worshiped by miners of these precious ores, to whom She gave their success and wealth. Malachite was also ground into a powder and worn as eye shadow. By so doing, the women who wore it not only worshiped Hathor by adorning themselves in beauty, but anointed themselves with Her essence. Egyptian Gods are not just the God of something, They ARE that thing. Hathor is not just the Goddess of Malachite, She *IS* malachite. Malachite is Hathor embodied.

Although one cannot draw definitive parallels as we lack definitive records, one can recognize a merging of physical and spiritual goals, akin to the manner in which painting henna upon the body transcends mere body art for a devout Hindu woman. The ritual ideally brings actual physical connection with the divine presence of the good goddess Laksmi, embodied in henna. Laksmi, quite similarly to Hathor, rules joyousness, abundance and the beauty and vitality of women, the gracious acceptance of the pleasures of life. Thus Hathor was very likely not merely an abstract religious concept but a vital living component of everyday life. Eventually, Isis would borrow much of Hathor’s iconography and her functions, eventually even wearing her headdress. However, the two deities are not the same nor are they interchangeable. Isis is a being of tremendous complexity: there is tragedy inherent in her myth. Ultimately, Isis is the bereaved widow, the self-less, devoted single mother. For all Isis‘ fame as the Mistress of Magic, she cannot avoid pain, grief and desolation. Her legend embodies both the noblest and the most hopeless aspects of human nature. Hathor, on the other hand, is the embodiment of success. She lacks the ambivalence Isis sometimes possesses. Instead Hathor has an absolute, laser-like focus. She may be joyous and benevolent or she may be single-mindedly vengeful towards spiritual transgressors, the enemies of her father. Unhappiness, ugliness, failure: all these are foreign to her, not a part of her being. Even in her most vengeful, dangerous aspect, Hathor takes the form of an elegant if fearsome lioness or the searing but beautiful solar eye[2].


The stone most closely associated with Hathor was probably green turquoise. She was so often shown wearing the menit, an elaborate necklace of green turquoise beads, that sometimes even when She was depicted in complete-cow form, She still wore the menat-hathor.jpgnecklace.  Modern metaphysicists say that turquoise is a purification stone. I’ve looked up the three stones most commonly associated with Hathor, to see what the modern understanding of them are. This information comes from several sources, but most notably . Turquoise is believed to dispel negativity, stabilize mood swings, and help with depression. It’s keywords are purification, serenity, protection, wisdom, balance, strength, friendship, love, positive thinking, and sensitivity.

Malachite is a stone of spiritual healing, protector of children and travelers, and is used to aid success in business. It enables you to adsorb and process information, helps ease the effects of dyslexia, encourages positive changes and releases negativity and old traumas. It is the stone of unconditional love, empathy for yourself and others. It’s keywords are calming, menet.jpgloyalty, leadership, protection, wisdom, comfort, balance, peace, self-understanding, positive transformation, healing.

Lapis-Luzuli is a stone associated with both Isis and Hathor, although more closely with Isis. With its dark blue color flecked with pyrite, it symbolized to the ancient Egyptians the endless heavens studded with undying stars. It symbolized to the Egyptians the afterlife, regeneration and rebirth. As a stone of Heaven it is appropriate for any Sky Goddess. Egyptian judges wore amulets of lapis luzuli around their necks, inscribed with “Mayat”, the word for truth, justice, and harmony, overseen by the Goddess Ma’at. The lapis also symbolizes the life-giving waters of the Nile.

Just as the ancient Egyptian believed that lapis was a stone of joy, modern metaphysics says that it can help to ease depression. Lapis is supposed to give mental clarity, balance yin and yang, relieve anxiety and heal emotional wounds. The Egyptians associated it with fertility and growth, and we associate it was creative expression. The Egyptians saw lapis as a stone of spirituality and a seer’s stone, and modern crystal books will say lapis is a stone of truth, friendship, and a psychic facilitator. It can be worn to deflect psychic attacks, overcome depression, and bring harmony, self-knowledge, and the courage to speak one’s truth. It’s keywords are inner truth, inner power, love, purification, intuition, positive magic, self-confidence, manifestation, and friendship.


Lady of Love


Hathor is the supreme Lady of Love and Beauty, She Who Makes the World Joyous At Her Coming. Seeing all this, it was quite natural for the Greeks to associate the Egyptian Hathor with their own Golden Goddess, Aphrodite. Hathor isn’t just called The Golden Goddess, but even The Gold That Is Hathor. Seeing all this, it was natural for the Greeks in Egypt to equate Hathor with their own Golden Goddess, Aphrodite.

Hathor is the Goddess of all perfumes, but is most strongly felt in myrrh. This is another connection to Aphrodite. Myrrh has heavy mythical implications. The myrrh tree was originally a girl, name Myrrha, or Smyrna. She had been turned into the fragrant myrrh tree, but she was pregnant at the time. As the months went on, the trunk of the tree swelled. When it was time for the tree-child to be born, a wild boar ran into the tree and tore open the trunk with its tusks. The child born from the first myrrh-tree was Adonis, Aphrodite’s great love who was destined to die young. Everything in ritual is symbolic and important. Most modern people miss these little details because, unlike the ancients, we are not seeped in these myths and stories and stories from birth.

Aphrodite’s great connections connections to the Ptolemaic dynasty, starting with Soter’s son Philadelphus. Ptolemy II Philadelphus dedicated a Temple to His wife Arsinoe under the title Aphrodite Arsinoe, but there were many new Temples built for Hathor-Aphrodite. Not just tacking the name “Aphrodite” to an existing Temple for Hathor, but actually building a new Temple to the syncretic Goddess Aphrodite-Hathor.


Temple of Aphrodite-Hathor in Egypt
“There are many other towns on Prosopitis; the one from which the boats come to gather the bones of the bulls is called Atarbekhis [probably named after Athor-Hathor]; a temple of Aphrodite stands in it of great sanctity.” – Herodotus 2.41


Love spell invoking Aphrodite-Hathor
“Aphrodite’s Name, which becomes known to no one quickly, is NEPHERIE’RI [i.e. Nfr-iry.t, “the beautiful eye”, an epithet for Aphrodite/Hathor] – this is the Name. If you wish to win a woman who is beautiful, be pure for 3 days, make an offering of Frankincense, and call this Name over it. You approach the woman and say it seven times in your Soul as you gaze at her, and in this way it will succeed. But do this for 7 days.” – PGM IV.1265-74


Priestesses of Aphrodite-Hathor bury the Hesis-cow

“The priests of Aphrodite to Apollonios [the dioiketes] greeting. In accordance with what the king has written to you, to give one hundred talents of myrrh for the burial of [the Hesis], please order this [to be given]. For you know that the Hesis is not brought up to the nome unless we have in readiness everything required for the burial, because [the embalming is done (?)] on the day (of her death). Know that the Hesis is Isis, and may she give you favor in the eyes of the king. Farewell. Year 28, Hathyr 15.” – PSI 4.328


Sacred Sites of Hathor


One Her most sacred sites was the Temple of Denderah. The Temple was revered as a holy site of pilgrimage. The Temple sponsored grand processions and magnificent festivals.  It was a place of healing where people came to be cured of both physical and psychological maladies. There  also a small Temple to Isis inside the Temple walls, and a beautiful lake on the grounds. The ceiling in some of the rooms is carved with intricate astrological calendars. Although much of the Temple still stands, we’ll never know for sure what was on the other ceilings. When Napoleon’s men took the Temple, they found that an Arabic village had been living inside the Temple precinct for generations. Years of campfire smoke had irreconcilably blackened much of the walls and ceilings. It’s a heart-breaking thought.

Denderah has a few things usually not found in Egyptian Temples: crypts. Even stranger, they are crypts without bodies. There are about a dozen of them, some underground, some actually within the massive walls of the Temple. We don’t know for sure what they are for. Perhaps ritual objects, and/or an image of the Goddess Herself, were stored (hidden) here. They would have been brought out for special occasions, festival processions, etc. But I want to emphasize that this is mere speculation. What they were really used for is a mystery. Or, THE Mysteries.

On the island of Philae, at one of Isis’ most famous Temples, there was also a smaller, but much older, Temple to Hathor. Similarly, Hathor’s holy site of Denderah honored Isis with a small Temple. Hathor and Isis were two of the most popular Egyptian Deities of all time. Although Isis’ worship spread to Rome and as far as Britain, She is one of the only exceptions. Egyptian Gods and Goddesses were very insular, some were worshiped only in Their home town and never caught on in the rest of Egypt. Hathor, however, long before Isis’ worship was exported, Hathor was worshiped throughout Semitic West Asia, far beyond the borders of Egypt and Nubia. She was particularly revered in Babylon. Hathor was worshiped as far as modern Ethiopia, Somalia and Libya. The love of first Hathor, and then Isis, was nearly universal. “The seed of what would be universally beloved within Isis also existed within Hathor. Their appeal transcends national or ethnic boundaries: Hathor perhaps embodies the wishes of those who long for life to be generously benevolent and abundant, while Isis embodies the hopes of those who wish for mercy and kindness[4].” It’s interesting that the biblical Mount Sinai may have had a Temple to Hathor.


Hathor and the Golden Calf Business?

Mount Horeb is the holy mountain of Exodus. It is referred to as “the mountain of God” in Exodus 3:1, and named by Moses “Massah, and Meribah” (Exodus 17:6), where the rock was smited in order to create water for the troups. [This is also near the site of the battle between the Amalek and the Hebrews.] Beginning in Chapter 19 of Exodus, however, there is an apparent move “into the wilderness of Sinai” and “to the desert of Sinai”, whereupon Moses, et al, pitched camp at what is now referred to as Mount Sinai.

Later, after all of the goings on at Mount Sinai, Moses is again told to head for greener pastures (“a land flowing with milk and honey” — Exodus 33:3), but apparently before going, the children of Israel are stripping “themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb.” (Exodus 33:6).  Was there some backtracking here?  Are there two mountains?

In all respects, it appears that Mount Horeb is the one mountain of the one God.  Located in the Sinai wilderness/desert, Horeb is also a mountain of Sinai.  In fact, it was only in the fourth century A.D. that “Mount Sinai” even existed — apparently given the name by Greek Christian monks almost two thousand years after Moses.  In modern times, the mountain called Gebel Musa — “Mount of Moses” — is now the alleged stand-in for the holy mountain, but Mount Horeb is actually the peak now called Mount Serabit, at a location called Serabit el-Khadim. [1]

Why is this geography lesson important?  Because on Mount Serabit (aka Mount Horeb, the biblical Mount Sinai), there exists an extraordinary archaeological discovery:  A temple dedicated to the Egyptian goddess, Hathor.  One can in fact surmise that Moses was well aware of an operational Egyptian temple in the Sinai, and the Sinai was thus a safe haven for his flock of departing slaves (since the soldiers pursuing them would not have wanted to shed blood on holy ground, I presume).  Thereafter, the temple was lost to the world until 1904 A.D., when a group of archaeologists headed by Sir W. M. Flinders Petrie found the site[5]. It also makes one wonder if the Golden Calf the Israelites were supposedly worshiping while Moses received the Ten Commandments was actually the Great Egyptian Goddess Hathor.


Associations and Titles

Hathor was equated with Aphrodite/Venus, Hera, Persephone, Nyx, Nuit, Sekhmet, Isis, Astarte, Ishtar, Inanna, and Anat or Anath. Some of Her titles are Lady of Cheerfulness, Mistress of Myrrh, Beloved of the Gods and the Goddesses, The Brilliant One in the Sky, The Celestial Nurse, The Divine Cow, The Eye of Ra in the Temple of the Sistrum, The Feline One of Women, The Golden One, The Great Cow Who Protects Her Child, Great in Divinity, Hand of Atum, Her Majesty, Het-Hert the Great, Mistress of Malachite, The One Whose Face Shines without Anger, Mistress of Strength, Mistress of Temples, Mistress of the Tresses (hair – Hathor was known for Her beautiful hair), and many, many many more we don’t have space for. (a much more complete list can be found here: . I suggest you read them if you have a chance, they give a great insight into Her many faces.)

[1]    M. Isidora Forrest. Offering to Isis: Knowing the Goddess Through Her Sacred Symbols. Llewellyn. 2005. Page 166.


[3]    Kerenyi, Carl. The Gods of the Greeks. Thames & Hudson Ltd. New York. 1951.



Ptolemy II Philadelphus


Although Ptolemy II later married his sister Arsinoe in the Egyptian tradition, his first wife is also named Arsinoe (It’s nearly impossible to keep them all separate!). Historians call his first wife Arsinoe I and his sister Arsinoe II in an effort to differentiate them. It was his first wife who bore him his children, Ptolemy III (his successor), Lysimachus (who is named after his mother’s father), and a daughter named Berenike. His sister/wife Arsinoe II doesn’t seem to have borne him any children. Philadelphus had two half-brothers, Ptolemy Keraunos and Meleager, sons of Ptolemy Soter from a previous marriage. Both became kings in Makedonia. When Philadelphus was young, he was educated by Philitas of Kos, who was a well-known scholar and poet, and the philosopher Strato of Aristotle’s school, which instilled him what would become a  lifelong love of learning.

In 88 BCE he began to rule as co-regent with his parents Ptolemy Soter and Berenike I. Three years later, when Ptolemy Soter was sure that his son was ready to rule on his own, Philadelphus took over. Philadelphus was not a great warrior, he was a peaceable and cultured king, who was eager to increase the literary works in the great Library and to patronize scientific research. He loved to be in the company of philosophers, poets, and scientists. He was a “lover of all that is beautiful and of literature.” Zenodotus, the man who he appointed as bibliophylax, or “Custodian of the Books”, invented alphabetization as a way to organize books and created the first modern library shelving system. Kallimakhos, Theocritus, and a host of lesser-known poets glorified the Ptolemaic dynasty and recorded their works. Philadelphus also finished the building of the Pharos lighthouse, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient worked, started by his father. Philadelphus was a great ruler, who continued his father’s work of uniting the Egyptian and Greek peoples.

While they were still living Philadelphus and Arsinoe declared themselves living Gods, and they were called the Theoi Adelphoi, “the Brother-Sister Gods”. Ever after the Ptolemies would be worshiped as God-kings in the Egyptian manner. Even in her lifetime Arsinoe was being prayed to, particularly by sailors, suggesting she was seen as a kind of avatar of Isis.

Philadelphus also took the Egyptian name Meryamun Setepenre, which means “Beloved of Ammon, Chosen of Ra”. (another source says the name was Weserkare Meryamun “Powerful is the soul of Ra, beloved of Ammon”.) It was under Philadelphus that Alexandria really began to grow. It grew so fast under Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III that it had to be divided into three districts, making them easier to govern. By the end of his reign, it consisted of Rhakotis, the native Egyptian quarter (and the original village before Alexandria was built), Bruchium, the Greek-Makedonian quarter and the Jewish Quarter, which was almost as big as the Greek section. Philadelphus completed a canal from the Nile River to the Gulf of Suez. The canal been started under the last Egyptian Pharaoh, but was forced to be abandoned when Darius became the Persian King.  It was named Ptolemy River in honor of the man who finished it. Many say that under Ptolemy II Philadelphus Egypt attained its greatest height.

Philadelphus was a fervent worshiper of Dionysos, and sponsored many elaborate and expensive festivals in the God’s honor. He bought many exotic animals from faraway lands, to live in a kind of Alexandrian zoo. In fact, in one of the more elaborate processions in honor of Dionysos, there were 24 chariots drawn by elephants and followed by pairs of lions, leopards, panthers, antelopes, wild asses, camels, a bear, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, and as many as 8 pairs of ostriches. One of chariots was drawn by elephants and carried a 7-foot call solid gold statue of Dionysos[1]. Perhaps appropriate for a worshiper of Dionysos, Philadelphus was famous for his many mistresses and concubines.

But he was also a great ruler, perhaps even better than his father. Ptolemy Soter had vision, but was bored by some of the day-to-day efforts it took to run a county like Egypt. He left the details to his advisors. Philadelphos threw himself into it and learnt the ins and outs of everything, so he knew intimately what was going on, which also meant that his advisors would not be able to trick or cheat him. He even invented new currency, changing the relatively primitive barter system the Egyptian used into a more modern banking system, according to The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern World, by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid (which I plan to review whenever I finish reading it). I’ll end this post with a quote from Philo:


“In all the qualities which make a good ruler, Ptolemy Philadelphos excelled not only his contemporaries, but all who came before him so that even today, after so many generations, his praises are sung for the many evidences and monuments of his greatness of mind which he left behind him in different cities and countries. That is why acts of more than ordinary munificence or buildings on an especially great scale are proverbially called Philadelphian after him. … To put it shortly, as the house of the Ptolemies was highly distinguished, compared with other dynasties, so was Philadelphos among the Ptolemies. The creditable achievements of this one man almost outnumbered those of all the others put together, and, as the head takes the highest place in the living body, so he may be said to head the kings.” – Philo, Life of Moses 2.29-30

[1]    Scullard, H.H The Elephant in the Greek and Roman World Thames and Hudson. 1974 pg 125 “At the head of an imposing array of animals (including…)”

GMC: Thoughts on Khnum Re-Post

First posted in 2o11.

Khnum (also Chnum, Knum, or Khnemu), the ram-headed creator God of Egypt, is one of the oldest Gods of Egypt, worshiped from the 1st dynasty ( 2925–2775 BCE) into the early centuries CE. He was originally thought to preside over the unknown source of the Nile River. Hapi was considered the Nile God in other areas, and eventually His rise in prominence eclipsed Khnum’s Nile aspect. Since the annual flooding of the Nile deposited black silt and clay unto its banks, and because the water was the source of all life, He evolved to be the creator of human bodies. He shapes each child’s form from clay on his potter’s wheel, and then places them in their mother’s wombs. In some accounts He even creates the soul of the child. says that this process did not end at birth, but continued throughout life as a person grew and matured.
In later periods He is even thought to have molded other Deities. One hymn to Hapi, the God of the Nile, says that Khnum fashions Him anew each year. Among Khnum’s titles are Divine Potter and Lord of created things from himself, and Lord of the Cool Waters. Khnum itself means “builder”.It is also related to the root word khnm, “to unite”, or “to form, create”. has more interesting insights into the possible origins of His name.

It is Khnum who releases the vivifying floodwaters from the subterranean caverns in which they were symbolically stored; a connection is thus sometimes postulated between his name and the word khnmt, meaning a spring or well. Several times in the Coffin Texts (spells 51 and 53-6) one encounters the phrase, “Khnum is glad,” referring to the resurrection, but also punning on the name Khnum and khnm, meaning ‘to be glad1’.

E. A. Wallis Budge, the author of The Gods of the Egyptians, tells us about the ancient origins of Khnum, using an alternate spelling of His name:

The texts show that Khnemu always held an exalted position among the ancient gods of their country, and we know from Gnostic gems and papyri that he was a god of great importance in the eyes of semi-Christian sects for some two or three centuries after the birth of Christ. It was probable that Khnemu was one of the gods of the pre-dynastic Egyptians who lived immediately before the archaic period, for his symbol was the flat-horned ram, and that animal appears to have been introduced into Egypt from the East; he disappears from the monuments before the period of the XIIth Dynasty2.

As the molder of other Gods, Khnum came to be identified with Ra, and considered the Ba, the soul or manifestation, of Ra. The word ba also means “ram”, and so Khnum was pictured with the head of a Ram. His two main centers of worship were Elephantine Island and Esna, which was also right by the river. At Elephantine rams have been found mummified with gold gilded headpieces.
At Elephantine, He is married to the Goddess Satis and worshiped alongside Anuket, Who is sometimes another wife and sometimes the daughter of Khnum and Satis. Satis’ worship originated in the city of Swenet, now called Aswan, where She was considered the deification of the innundation, the floods of the Nile River. Her name means “She Who Shoots Forth”, and “She is also called She Who Runs Like an Arrow”, both of which is thought ot refer to the river floods and/or current. She was often drawn with a bow and arrows, and was early on a Goddess of war and hunting, and protector of the southern (Nubian) border of Egypt. Related to the Nile as She was, She was also a fertility Goddess to some extent.
Satis gave birth to Anuket, Goddess of the Nile River itself, presumably by Khnum. Anuket (also spelled Anqet, and transliterated to Greek, Anukis) means “embracer”, as the Nile floods embrace the fields. She is called The Giver of Life, the Nourisher of the Fields, and She Who Shoots Forth. When the Nile began to flood each year, the Festival of Anuket began. Coins, gold, jewelry and other precious items were thrown into the river as offerings of thanks. Along with Her parents Satis and Khnum, She was 1/3 of the triad of Elephantine. By some accounts Khnum was also the father of Heka, the God/dess of magic (Heka is usually described as male, but sometimes female). In this pairing, Heka’s mother and Khnum’s consort is Menhyt, a lioness-headed Goddess Who defends the sovereignty of the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and is possibly related to the usraus crown, the rearing cobra, on Ra’s head, and so related to Wadjet.
Sometimes Khnum is pictured with four heads, all rams. E. A. Wallis Budge tells us about the symbolization behind this description:

Khnemu united within himself the attributes of the four great Gods Ra, Shu, Qeb or Seb (Geb), and Osiris, and in this aspect he is represented in pictures with four ram’s heads upon a human body; according to Brugsch these symbolize fire, air, earth and water. When depicted with four heads Khnemu was the type of the great primeval creative force, and was called Sheft-Hat3.

The Greeks in Alexandria equated their Hephaistos with Ptah, but I’ve always connected Him to Khnum. All three are Master Craftsmen, Khnum of pottery specifically, Ptah of stone-working, and Hephaistos of metal-working and the forge. All represent the Principal of organization in the Kosmos. Despite His stone-working patronage, Ptah is strongly associated with the power of the Word, with the magical use of language to create. In contrast, Khnum and Hephaistos work with Their hands. They are handymen, not afraid to get Their hands dirty. Khnum and Hephaistos are earthy, rooted Gods, never mind Hephaistos’ connection to fire and Khnum’s water and solar aspects.


Like Hephaistos, Khnum is another God Who is sadly neglected in modern Paganism, even by Kemetics. One possible reason is that we take technology for granted. It’s always been there. Honored or not, machines and technology are ever-present, and so are Hephaistos and Khnum. In addition, craftsmanship, the kind of hands-on, detailed work that both Hephaistos and Khnum represent, is not common anymore. When it is available, it’s usually very expensive. Most of our “stuff” is mass produced in factories or pieced together in third-world countries. Everything comes ready-made, fully assembled. We don’t see all the work that goes into them. And much of it is shoddy and badly constructed.
Lastly, Hephaistos and Khnum are quiet, unassuming Deities. I believe They represent a gentler kind of manhood than is sometimes extolled in our culture. Unlike Ares, the brash warrior God, Hephaistos and Khnum prefer peace and order. They are not rulers like Zeus or the future king like Horus, son of Isis. They are not Tricksters like Hermes or Loki, crafty though They are. No, They apply Their intelligence and talent toward shaping things, towards making beauty in an sometimes ugly world. Hephaistos and Khnum are Creators, on a basic level. This is a fantastic example for modern men who do not fall into the categories of warrior, king, or prankster. Western culture often expects men to be taciturn, emotionally unavailable Vin Diesel-like action figures, and punishes those who are not judged “manly” enough. The rash of recent gay suicides should illustrate this sad fact – several of those boys were actually straight, but were mercilessly teased as gay because other boys decided they were too effeminate. How sad! Those boys didn’t have any examples of other ways to be a man. Hephaistos and Khnum, the gentle, intelligent craftsmen of the Gods, are an alternate way, a more positive role model.


2E. A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. Pg 49.

3E. A. Wallis Budge. The Gods of the Egyptians. Pg 51.

Meditation on Ptah

First published on the Neos Alexandria website, here, in 2011. While I love and support Neos Alexandria, I’m in the process of trying to get most of my writing in one place (this blog) so I (and others, I suppose) don’t have to go all over to find it.

[Excepted from “Olympos in Egypt”, the author’s class on the history of Alexandria, the Ptolemies, and Greco-Egyptian Spirituality.]

Ptah was the primary Deity in the Egyptian city of Memphis. Memphis was the first capital and administrative center of Egypt, when all of Egypt was unified during the First Dynasty. Memphis sits at the juncture of Upper and Lower Egypt, and so is called “the Balance of the Two Lands, in which Upper and Lower Egypt had been weighed.”

Mariam Lichtem states that in the conflict between Horus and Set, Horus represented Lower Egypt, and Set Upper Egypt.

Although the sacred Apis bull was typically considered the manifestation of Osiris (hence the combination name Osar-Apis), at times the Apis was called the ba of Ptah. This impiles that Ptah was originally a fertility God. His green skin, similar to that of Osiris, may support this theory,

Ptah’s Memphite priests identified Him with the primordial mound that arose at the First Time from the watery chaos of Nun. His mound was called Ta-tenen (Tathenen, Tatjenen), which means “risen land” or, as Tanen, “submerged land.”  Ammon, one of the greatest Gods of the Ennead of Heliopolis, arose from this primordial mound of soil. Ptah’s identification with the Ta-tenen placed the God of Memphis above the Ennead, making Him a very powerful, very primal creator God. Like most usually “inamimate” things in Egyptian Theology, the mound itself was considered a God,  and so Ptah was often worshiped as the fusion Deity Ptah-Tatenen.

Ptah dreamt of creation in His heart, and He brought forth the world through the power of the spoken Word. He knows the true name of everything in existance, and so maintains power over everything. Some of the creation stories say that Ptah created the great metal plate that was the floor of heaven and the roof of the sky.

Ptah means “opener”, referring to the Opening of the Mouth ceremony, in which Egyptian priests called down the spirit of a God to reside in its cult statue. Although the statue only contained a fraction of the God’s true Being, ever after it was treated as the God itself. It was awakened in the morning through elaborate rituals, washed and dressed, fed and entertained throughout the day, and at night was put to sleep, like it was a living creature.

Others suggest that His name means “sculptor.” He is often called Ptah-Neb-Ankh, which means Ptah, Lord of Life.

As the supreme crafter of the world, He patronized all artisans and craftsmen, especially  stone-carvers and potters. Since in Egypt stone-craft was heavily connected with the building of magnificent tombs, He became a funerary Deity, and the Opening of the Mouth ceremony came to be used to free the souls of the deceased from their corpse before their mummification and burial.

Ptah is a God of intelligence in all forms, but especially of eloquence and the spoken word. He is the master creator and builder, and the Greeks identified Ptah with Hephaistos, Their own master craftsman and Divine Blacksmith. (I personally identify Hephaistos more strongly with Khnum, another craftsman God, with the head of a ram, Who shapes all men on His potter’s wheel. I have no idea if this was supported by ancient belief, but it holds true for me, and others in the Recon community see the connection as well.) So strong was His connection to craftsmen that when the mortal architect and healer Imhotep was deified, Ptah was said to be His father.

By some accounts Ptah is married to Sekhmet, the lioness Goddess. Other accounts name Bast or Wadjet as His wife. All three Goddesses bear the title the Eye of Ra. In Memphis Ptah, Sekhmet, and Their son Nefertum were worshiped as a Triad (sometimes Nefertum’s mother is Wadjet).  Nefertum’s name could be interpreted to mean  “that which is beautifully completed,” that is, perfected or actualized. He is usually shown holding or smelling a blue lotus, a flower that was very popular in ancient Egypt, or as a man wearing a lotus headdress or a child sitting on a lotus.  He is sometimes accompanied by a cat, which may imply a connection to Bast. With Bast, Ptah is supposed to have fathered a minor lion-headed God called Mihos. In some of the stories Bast is the mother of Nefertum as well.

Ptah is called the Lord of Life, for indeed, in Memphite Theology all other Gods come into being through the thought and speech of Ptah, as the very thought and speech of Ptah. He is the Divine Artificer, but He also gives life. He himself states that He causes  “the herbage to grow … I make the riparian lands of Upper Egypt green, I the Lord of the deserts who makes green the valleys in which are the Nubians, the Asiatics and the Libyans.” He says also that he is responsible for  “nourishing the grain of the Field of Offerings and knitting the seed together,” and that he “give[s] life.” As God of words of power, He also patronizes spoken magic.


Lichtheim, Miriam. 1975-80. Ancient Egyptian Literature. 3 vols. Berkeley: University of California Press. Vol. 1. page 53.

Tour Egypt: Ptah

Who was Ptolemy Soter?

This was originally published on the Neos Alexandriaqwebsite, but I thought it would be good to re-post it here too, since there is little information about Ptolemy out there.


Who was Ptolemy Soter?

by Amanda Artemisia Forrester

[Excerpted from the author’s class “Olympos in Egypt: An Introduction to the History of Alexandria, the Ptolemies, and Greco-Egyptian Spirituality.”]

Ptolemy I, or Ptolemy Soter, ruled Egypt from 323 to 285. He was born in 367 or 366 BCE in Makedonia, meaning he would have already been in his early 40s when he became Pharaoh of Egypt. He ruled for thirty-eight years, so he was in his early eighties when he died. In 285 he gave up rule to his son, who had been co-regent for three years. He died three years after he retired.

Ptolemy was so loved that the poet Theokritos sang this of him:

With Zeus begin, sweet sisters, and end with Zeus when ye would sing the sovereign of the skies: but first among mankind rank Ptolemy; first, last, and midmost; being past compare. Did not the son of Lagos accomplish whatever his mind could dream up, dreams which no man hath had before? Zeus doth esteem him among the blessed immortals; in the sire’s courts his mansion stands. And near him Alexander sits and smiles, the turbaned Persian’s dread1.

Ptolemy had been a boyhood friend of Alexander, although almost ten years older than him. He may have been taught in the school of Aristotle alongside Alexander. His mother was Arsinoe, a noble of Makedonia, and his father was usually said to be her husband Lagos. However, some people said that Ptolemy was an illegitimate son of Philip, which would have made him Alexander’s half-brother. Ptolemy fought alongside Alexander, and more than once saved his King’s life in battle2, even exposing a plot on Alexander’s life3.

When Alexander ordered his men to marry Persian women in 324, only one year before his death, Ptolemy was given a noblewoman named Artakama4. She was the sister of Alexander’s mistress, Barsine, but there are no further references to her. Like most of Alexander’s men, Ptolemy most likely divorced his Persian bride after Alexander’s death – he had married only out of loyalty to Alexander, not love or any choice of his own.

When Ptolemy returned to Egypt, he was not yet named Pharaoh. At that time he was still a satrap under the rule of Philip Arrhidaeus, Alexander’s older half-brother, and Alexander IV, infant son of Alexander and Roxane. Philip Arrhidaeus was technically king. The infantry wanted someone of Alexander’s blood to rule, and threatened to revolt against the generals if Arrhidaeus was not put on the throne. The first fight for succession was between Perciddas, commander of the cavalry, and Meleager, commander of the phalanx. Perciddas wanted to wait until Roxane gave birth, to see if Alexander’s child was a boy. Meleager, like his men, thought that Arrhidaeus, as the closest living male relative, should be king. They came to a compromise: Arrhidaeus would rule for the time being, and then if the child was a boy, they would rule together.

However, he was a mere figurehead for the generals, starting with Perciddas and going through many others. Plutarch tells that Arrhidaeus had become physically and mentally disabled after Alexander’s mother Olympias poisoned him as a child, in an attempt to clear the way to the throne for her own son. Like so many other stories about Olympias, there is no proof this ever happened. Alexander was apparently very fond of his brother, and took him with him on his campaigns, although he was never in any kind of command and may have never fought at all. Arrhidaeus was eventually killed in the political struggles after Alexander’s death, on Dec. 25, 317 BCE.

Ptolemy stole the body of Alexander, in an attempt to honor his wishes to be buried in Egypt. It was also a Makedonian tradition for the new king to bury his predecessor, so Perdiccas saw this as a grab for power and declared war on Ptolemy. In 321 BCE Perdiccas tried to attack Ptolemy. But Perciddas was unable to invade Egypt, losing as many as two thousand men to drowning when he attempted to cross the Nile. He was forced to retreat, and the episode so badly damaged his reputation that he was killed that night in his tent by two of his subordinates. Even before he was killed, a hundred of the commanders revolted and went over to Ptolemy’s side. When Ptolemy heard what had happened, he crossed the Nile himself to give much needed supplies to Perciddas’ army. He had fought with many of these men, after all, just a few years before. In return he was offered Perdiccas’ position as Regent, but he turned it down. Ptolemy was never tempted to risk everything in pursuit of total power, but in his wisdom stuck with Egypt.

Alexander’s son was killed in 311 BCE, leaving Ptolemy with control of Egypt all to himself. Although he had been acting as Pharaoh to the Egyptian people for many years, he was now addressed by the title of King by other Greek lands. Ptolemy is pictured in both Greek and Egyptian dress. He actively promoted the Egyptians cults and sought to create a synthesis of the two societies.

Although the many successors (who were called the Diadochi) of Alexander fought off and on for forty years, Ptolemy did his best to stay out of the affairs of the others. Except to defend Egypt when necessary, Ptolemy concentrated his energy on rebuilding rather than fighting with the successors. He did not retain his land or holdings in Greece, and he didn’t seem to care or dispute their seizure. Ptolemy was a cautious strategist. He only joined the coalitions against certain of the Diadochi when it appeared that one, such as Antigonus, had the ambition and possible ability to destroy them all. He also sent men to assist the island of Rhodes when it was under siege by Demetrius. Ptolemy controlled Cyrenaica, Cyprus, and Palestine as well, for a time. Although he lost and regained Cyprus and Palestine at different times, he never lost control of Egypt. Ptolemy was strongest there, and Egypt is a hard land to invade, surrounded on all sides by merciless desert.

Ptolemy continued to build the city of Alexandria according to Alexander’s original plans. He built the city’s walls, countless Temples, and the tomb/temple of Alexander and established a priesthood of Alexander, which would become one of the most important priesthoods in the city. He began the work on the famous Pharos lighthouse, which would be completed during his son’s reign. The Pharos would become one of the seven wonders of the world. He connected the island of Pharos to the mainland by a causeway, as Alexander had planned, and it became one of the sides of the Alexandrian harbor. He patronized the mathematician Euclid, and invited the philosopher Strabo to tutor his son. He founded the great Library of Alexandria and the Mouseion (Temple of the Muses), both great centers of learning and culture. At it’s height the Library was said to house 700,000 scrolls5!

Ptolemy, driven by zeal and the great desire for the furtherance of learning, collected with no less care, a similar Library for the same purpose at Alexandria, about the same period. When by dint of great labor he had completed it, he was not satisfied, unless, like the seed of the earth, it was to go on increasing. He therefore instituted games to the Muses and Apollo, and in imitation of those in which wrestlers contended, he decreed rewards and honors to the victorious in literature6.

Ptolemy even resorted to piracy to gain rare books for his library:

The precious texts were safe-guarded in the Athenian state archives and were not allowed to be lent out. Ptolemy however was able to persuade the governors of Athens to permit him to borrow them in order to have them copied. The enormous sum of fifteen talents of silver was deposited in Athens as a pledge for their safe restitution. The King thereupon kept the originals and sent back copies, willingly forfeiting his pledge7.

There were books on Zoroastrianism8, histories of foreign places such as Babylonia9, and as Ptolemy II Philadelphus was in contact with one of the greatest Kings of India, Asoka, there may have even been Buddhist texts in the Library at that point. In the first class I stated that the Hebrew scriptures were translated into Greek under Ptolemy Soter; it turns out that there is some dispute as to which Ptolemy had them translated. I’m going to quote H. Jeremiah Lewis’ opinion on this subject:

It should be noted that there is some disagreement as to when this happened, and whether it was Ptolemy Soter or his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus who ordered the translation. The 2nd century Letter of Aristeas asserts that it was the son. Augustine (City of God 18.42-43) and Epiphanios (On Weights and Measures 3-11) agree with him, while Jerome (Preface to the Pentateuch) and Justin Martyr (Apology 1.31) insist it was the first Ptolemy. Of course, Justin says that Ptolemy sent to King Herod for the translation – which is about 300 years off the mark – meaning that he was probaly taking the ancient world’s eviqulent of crack when he wrote that. Scholars believe it is unlikely that the translation was undertaken by Philadelphus as Aristeas suggests, since Demetrios sought refuge at Soter’s court, but fell out of favor with Philadelphus and was killed shortly after he took the throne. (Diogenes Laertios L.5.78) Since Aristeas also gets other details of early Ptolemiac history wrong, it’s safe to assume that Soter is the one responsible for translating the Hebrew scriptures into Greek10.

Even though he was the ruler of a rich land, Ptolemy had simple tastes. He did not live in luxury. But he was a generous man, known for giving lavish gifts.

Ptolemy, son of Lagos, owned no more than was required for everyday use; and he used to say it was more kingly to enrich than to be rich11.

Ptolemy Soter was plain in his manners, and scarcely surpassed his own generals in the costliness of his way of life. He often dined and slept at the houses of his friends; and his own house had so little of the palace, that he borrowed dishes and tables of his friends when he asked any number of them to dine with him in return, saying that it was the part of a king to enrich others rather than to be rich himself. – S. Rappoport, History of Egypt.

He fed the Makedonian soldiers not under his command, from his own pocket:

On the next day when their was an assembly of soldiers, Ptolemy came, greeted the Makedonians, and spoke in defense of his attitude; and as their supplies had worn short, he provided at his own expense grain in abundance for the armies and filled the camp with the other needful things12.

Ptolemy wrote his own account of his experiences alongside Alexander, known for its plain and straightforward style of writing. The whole document has itself been lost, but served as a main source of Arrian’s history of Alexander, and so quotes and sections of Ptolemy’s history survive through Arrian’s writing.

Neither did Ptolemy have a puffed up ego; he could take a joke at his own expense. Ptolemy was once making fun of a pedant — commoner (?) for his ignorance, and asked him who the father of Peleus was. The pedant retorted that he would tell him after Ptolemy told him who the father of Lagos (Ptolemy’s father) was. This was a jest at rumors of Ptolemy’s illegitimacy. Everyone in the court was indignant, but Ptolemy told them, “If it is not the part of a king to take a jest, neither is it to make one13.”

Ptolemy was so loved that after his death in 382, he was declared a God and given the worship of a Heros like Alexander.

Now the rhyton was earlier called a horn; and it appears to have been manufactured first under the orders of King Ptolemy Philadelphus, that it might be used as an attribute borne by the statues of Arsinoe. For in her left hand the queen carries that sort of object filled with all kinds of fruit, the artists thus indicating that this horn is even richer in blessings than the horn of Amaltheia. Theoces mentions it in his Ithyphallic Versesthus: “All we artists have today celebrated with sacrifice the festival of Salvation;* in their company I have drunk the double horn and am come into the presence of our dearest king14.

*Xen. Anab. Iii. 2. 8. But here the Saviour Gods are Ptolemy I Soter and Berenice.

Ptolemy Philadelphus

Ptolemy had three children with Berenike: one son, Philadelphus, and two daughters, Arsinoe II and Philotera. (He had four or five children by his first wife, and three by an Athenian courtesan, Thais.) Philadelphus, who succeeded him, was born in 308 BCE, took the throne when his father retired in 285, and ruled as Pharaoh of Egypt for almost forty years, till January 28th, 246 BCE., when he died.

Ptolemy’s son was called Philadelphus because, in the tradition of the Egyptian royal families, he married his sister Arsinoe. This scandalized the Greeks and Makedonians, who had a strong prohibition against incest. To the Egyptians, this was not only to be expected, but celebrated. It’s easy for us moderns to judge this practice by our own social mores, but it was a different time. While they were still living they declared themselves living Gods, and they were called the Theoi Adelphoi, “the Brother-Sister Gods”. Ever after the Ptolemies would be worshiped as God-kings in the Egyptian manner.

Philadelphus was a great ruler, who continued his father’s work of uniting the Egyptian and Greek peoples. It was under Philadelphus’ reign the Pharos lighthouse Soter had begun was finished.

“In all the qualities which make a good ruler, Ptolemy Philadelphos excelled not only his contemporaries, but all who came before him so that even today, after so many generations, his praises are sung for the many evidences and monuments of his greatness of mind which he left behind him in different cities and countries. That is why acts of more than ordinary munificence or buildings on an especially great scale are proverbially called Philadelphian after him. … To put it shortly, as the house of the Ptolemies was highly distinguished, compared with other dynasties, so was Philadelphos among the Ptolemies. The creditable achievements of this one man almost outnumbered those of all the others put together, and, as the head takes the highest place in the living body, so he may be said to head the kings.” – Philo, Life of Moses 2.29-30

Modern Worship of Ptolemy Soter

While doing the research and writing for this class, I repeatedly found myself more and more drawn to Ptolemy Soter on a personal level. I turned to my friend, H. Jeremiah Lewis, whose book I’ve been referencing, and asked him some questions about his worship of the Ptolemies. His response was rather lengthy, but I’d like to share some of it with you, so you can get an idea what modern worship of the Ptolemies looks like (the full essay is available online here).

I asked him how he worshiped the Ptolemies, Soter in particular. His response was that although it was a straight-forward question, the answer is a bit complicated. The worship is very different depending on which Ptolemy he worshiping, if it’s only for one of them or as a family collectively, if it is a festival simply to honor them or if there is a particular goal such as promoting fertility or establishing order, or if it’s alongside other Gods. Dionysos and Aphrodite have special connections to the dynasty, and so will have different results than something for the whole pantheon, as They draw out different aspect of the Ptolemies’ personalities then other Gods. He also identifies four different aspects of Ptolemy Soter he has experienced:

Then there’s the fact that just as the gods have different forms or aspects that they may choose to reveal to us at any given time, so do the Ptolemies – and Soter in particular. Roughly there are four of them, though one should not assume that these exhaust the totality of his being or that they are mutually exclusive. They have a tendency to blur into each other during the course of an encounter, though whichever is most dominant tends to influence how I engage with him.

The God-King: In this form Soter is a deified monarch with very little humanity left about him. It’s almost as if he’s an image on a temple wall come to life: wise, powerful, strong, almost indistinguishable from the gods themselves. He embodies the spirit of kingship itself and everything that a good Pharaoh aspires to be. He tends to be distant, serene, aloof and fills you with a mixture of awe, reverence and more than a little fear. You are very much conscious of standing in the presence of something divine, something more than human, something radiating awesome and unimaginable power, something that would be terrible if not for the deep gentleness and benevolence of his spirit. He is absolutely just and pure, intolerant of misdeeds and personal weakness. You’d better have your shit together when you come before him in this form because he’ll make you acutely aware of every imperfection if you’re not.

The Neos Dionysos: The Ptolemies were descended from the god and especially devoted to his cult. They embodied all of his qualities and several seemed to live entirely in his mythical shadow. A Hindu might say that they were an avatar of Dionysos, the god made flesh on earth. Many of the Ptolemies themselves claimed to be the New Dionysos. Soter, however, wasn’t one of them. The Dionysian aspects of their kingship only became prominent with Philadelphos and it wasn’t until the reign of Philopator that this term was even coined. That’s not to say that Soter didn’t worship the god or that Dionysian imagery played no part in his royal ideology – there is ample evidence in support of both points – but Soter was also, unquestionably, less of a Dionysian monarch than his descendants, especially since he tended more to favor the cults of Zeus and Herakles and modeled his rule after them. It may seem strange, then, to include him in this category, but when I’ve encountered the Neoi Dionysoi (or whatever the plural of the term would be) in ritual he’s definitely been among them. Not as prominently as Philadelphos, Philopator, Auletes or Marcus Antonius, to be sure, but he nevertheless stands among them at their head, as is only fitting for the founder of the Dynasty. In terms of cultus the Neoi Dionysoi are a host of spirits resembling the god, sharing in his attributes, powers and personality as well as well as being distinct forms or masks through which he may manifest. Sometimes they appear all together as one being, like Dionysian nesting dolls stacked inside each other. Other times they are distinct but form a troop or choir accompanying the god in his eternal revels. When Soter is among them he appears lighter, friendlier, more jubilant and, well, human – though it is his Dionysian qualities that are foremost. Lusty, laughing, dancing, drunk and joyous. This is my favorite side of him, but it’s also the one I encounter least often. Of course it’s not all fun and games – this is Dionysos we’re talking about! – because there’s also a solemnity and darkness beneath the mirth, and above all a concern with fertility and especially the fertility of vegetative life through the process of death, decay and rebirth. Their revelry has a purpose: to awaken the dormant powers within the earth and stimulate growth and new green life once more.

Ancestral spirit: This is the form Soter takes when he is among the dead collectively. He is not one of the impotent and mindless shades of Haides – he’s more like the powerful ancestral spirits of traditional African and Egyptian religion who dispense wisdom, luck and potency when appeased but send illness, death and calamity when ignored. This form is very different from the others I’ve encountered. It’s much less personal, to the point where it can be difficult to distinguish him from the other spirits. He’s more a force or power than anything, driven by hunger and craving attention. But not personal attention, since there’s little that’s personal left to him. It’s blood and dance and offerings of food and alcohol and attention for all the dead that he desires, and he is just one among many. A host of souls continuing to influence this world from beyond the grave. The dead are dark and strange and hungry but they show great kindness to those who feed them. They are especially effective in healing illness, sending prophetic dreams and increasing one’s luck.

Ptolemy Soter himself: This is probably the form that I’ve encountered least often, but in some ways it’s left the greatest impression on me. This is just Ptolemy the son of Lagos. Not the king, not the god, not the living image of Dionysos or the great ancestral spirit – but the man. A man born in the hinterlands of Greece many centuries ago, who spent most of his life on the battlefield, who loved his wives and mistresses, who wanted only the best for his children and looked back with pride on the incredible things he’d done and seen over his eighty-plus years. He was a man of keen intellect, though not an intellectual by any stretch of the imagination. He was interested in figuring out how things worked – but only if that knowledge had a practical application. Others could spend time with their heads in the clouds – he was too busy keeping his men alive or governing a country. He was a stern patriarch, a man of honesty, integrity and uncompromising moral convictions. A hard man, disciplined and frugal. He didn’t shun wealth, but he believed that it should be used properly, never allowing it to corrupt one’s character or be pursued as an end unto itself. He demanded much of those around him – especially his children – but demanded even more of himself. He was interested in other cultures, especially when it came to their religious beliefs, but in the end he was a deeply conservative soul who believed in the inherent superiority of his people and their traditions. He’s like your grandfather. Someone who came through the Great Depression, fought in WWII and Korea and had the scars and stories to show for it. Hard, but not cruel; kind, but not doting. Set in his ways, a little crabby, but with a ready smile and a booming, infectious laugh. Full of solid practical advice – whether asked for or not – and more than a little nostalgic, frequently going on about how much better things were back in his day, yet grudgingly impressed by the progress we’ve made in certain areas. Over all, a wise and good man you’d do well to listen to.

So, now that I’ve probably told you more about the different ways I’ve encountered Ptolemy Soter than you ever wanted to know, I suppose I should actually attempt to answer the question you put to me, namely how I worship the Ptolemies. Well, when the god-king aspect is most prominent my style of worship isn’t much different from what I offer to the other deities. I set up a shrine, light some incense and candles, pour libations, offer food, recite hymns and prayers, etc. Beforehand I cleanse myself properly, wear my finest clothing and a garland. It’s all very formal and by the book. In fact, sometimes I adapt the Egyptian prayers to the deified king or use the royal formulas found on Ptolemaic temple walls, or the works of the Alexandrian court poets (Kallimakhos, Theokritos, Poseidippos, etc.) if I haven’t composed my own hymns and prayers for the occasion. I often use the official titles and honorifics associated with the cult of the Ptolemies, in both Greek and Egyptian. There are a number of activities associated with particular festivals but these are too complicated – and in some instances too personal – to go into here as part of a general overview.

Likewise if I’m dealing with the Ptolemies in their capacity as ancestral spirits I’ll employ the traditional Greek or Egyptian methods for honoring the dead. The main difference here is in what’s offered – for instance a mixed libation of milk, wine, honey and oil – and in how the offerings are handled. I may bury the offerings instead of just leaving them out and when I do so I write my prayer or request on a card and either inter it with the offerings or burn it.

The only unique feature that I feel warrants discussion at this point is the trance-possession that often takes place when I am dealing with their more Dionysian aspects. I allow them to come through and “ride” me in the manner of the Haitian lwa. This can take a variety of forms ranging from mere “shadowing” where I am in complete control of my body and senses but feel them somewhere in the back of my consciousness, communicating with me or showing me certain things on up to full possession where they are manipulating my body and speaking through my mouth and I’m pretty much just along for the ride in my own body or completely unaware until I return to myself. There’s plenty of things that can happen between these two extremes and it’s usually somewhere in the middle, a mixture of the two: I’ve only experienced what I’d consider total possession a handful of times now, and always on very special occasions. What transpires during these states and how they’re brought about aren’t things I really feel comfortable sharing in such a public forum. It’s enough to state that they are possible and happen with some regularity. In fact they’ve been known to happen even when I wasn’t intending to go that deep or had even planned to be working with them at that time. Lately the Ptolemies often show up when I’m doing stuff with either Dionysos or Spider – especially when I’m dealing with both of them together.

1Theokritos. Idylls 17

2Plutarch. Moralia. 327 B, 344 D.

3Alexander’s Itinerary. 41. xciii

4Arrian. 7.4.6

5Ammianus Marcellinus. Roman History. 22:16:15.

6Vetruvius. On Architecture. 7.4.

7 Galen, In Hippocr. De Nat.Hominis 1.44 ff

8Pliny. Natural History. 30.3-4

9Manethon. fr.3

10H. Jeremiah Lewis. Balance of the Two Lands: Writings on Greco-Egyptian Polytheism. Nysa Press. Page 230.

11Plutarch. Moralia. 181 F

12Diodoros. 18.28.5

13Plutarch. Moralia. 458 A – B.

14 Athenaeus XI. 497 b – c