Thoth was one of the most important gods of Ancient Egypt. He was the god of writing, wisdom, magic and the moon. Various versions of the origin of Thoth sprinkle the course of ancient Egyptian history. Some claim that the god created himself. However, others argue that he originates from the seed of Horus that came from the forehead of Set. People often saw Thoth as the son of these two gods, who represented order and chaos, respectively. Thus, they chose him also the god of equilibrium.
On the other hand, legends connect Ma’at to the god. His association extended to the divine balance and the goddess Ma’at, who represented this principle. The goddess was also sometimes depicted as the wife of Thoth.
The Various Names of God Thoth
Ancient Egyptians revered the bird Ibis as sacred and associated it with wisdom. The original Egyptian name of Thoth was Djehuty which translated to “He Who Is Like the Ibis”. Moreover, Thoth had other names such as Tahuti, Tehuti, Jehuti, Tetu, Zehuti, Techu. People also called him the Lord of the Khemenu, later Hermopolis, which served as a major cult centre for him.
The association of Thoth with the god Hermes led the Greeks to name Thoth “Hermes Trismegistus” (Thoth the Thrice Great). It is also the reason behind the naming of the city Hermopolis. Additionally, other tales refer to the god as “Lord of Ma’at“, “Scribe of Ma’at in the company of gods“, and “Lord of Divine Words”. The deity’s most popularly referred to as the just and incorruptible judge.
Origin of God Thoth
Like other Egyptian pantheon gods, Thoth has varying origin stories. Some claim that Ra created Thoth from his lip at the beginning of creation. According to other tales, Thoth created himself at the beginning of time. Then, Thoth laid a cosmic egg in the form of Ibis that held all of the creation. According to it, the ancient Egyptians called him “god without mother”.
Thoth and Horus
Simultaneously, stories closely linked the god with Ra and divine order and justice theory. Yet, another famous story about Horus and Set‘s contendings from 1190-1077 BCE pitches an entirely different origin story. According to this Egyptian manuscript, during the rule fighting between Set and Horus, the semen of Horus created Thoth that Set accidentally swallowed.
This text recounts the story of Set, who forced himself on Horus. Later, Set went to boast about it to other deities. However, he wasn’t aware that Horus had caught the seed of Set in his hand. Later, Isis chopped this seed and threw it into the Nile river. In the meantime, Horus put his seed into Set’s favourite food.
It accidentally impregnated Set with the seed of Horus. So as Set boasted about his misdeed, Horus challenged his claim. He asked the divinities to call out his seed. Much to the chagrin of Set, the seed from Horus answered the call from within him. The origin gathered on top of Set’s forehead and led to the birth of the god Thoth.
All the versions, however, have one similarity. All versions place Thoth as the scribe who records the events of the contest between Set and Horus. He mediated the fight between the gods and healed both of them at different times. Moreover, he offers to advise both of them.
Thoth believed that both sides were equally capable and shouldn’t gain an unfair advantage over the other. Hence, he healed Set and Horus during their battle. Similarly, among human beings, the god presided over justice on Earth.
The Roles of God Thoth
Ancient Egyptians attributed the god with creating numerous branches of knowledge. These branches included magic, law, religion, science, writing, philosophy and art. Hence, this made him the most reliable judge who could render just decisions. Moreover, Greeks admired this god to such an extent. Therefore they called him a knowledge originator.
Furthermore, the other gods held Thoth in high esteem. When the foreign lands (the distant goddess) kidnapped Ra‘s daughter, the gods chose Set to retrieve her. Thoth disguised himself as a baboon or monkey. He asked the goddess to come home through perseverance, cunningness and humility.
As a reward for his service, the gods gifted him the goddess Nehemtawy to be his consort. Moreover, Thoth played a significant role in the birth of the original five gods of Egypt. According to mythology, Nut became pregnant at the beginning of the world. It greatly angered the god Ra who then cursed Nut stating that she would not give birth on any day of the year.
Division of Moonlight
Distraught with fear, Nut ran to the wisdom god Thoth and begged for his help. To help Nut, the god gambled with the moon god Lah. He risked an additional five days worth of moonlight. Thoth won the gamble and divided Lah’s moonlight into five extra days that were not a part of the original year, as mentioned by Ra. It allowed Nut to escape the curse of Ra and give birth to each of her children (Osiris, Nephthys, Set, Horus and Isis) on those five days.
Later, despite being angry at Nut, he honoured the clever way Thoth got around his curse. Hence, he gave Thoth a seat of honour in his sky boat that crossed the sky by day and the underworld by night. Subsequently, Thoth protected Ra by defending him against the serpent Apophis who wanted to destroy the sun god.
The concept that Toth created words has made him immortal and a significant part of Ancient Egypt‘s culture. Ancients believed that he created the written word for both humans and god. Hence, scribes claimed him as their patron and honoured him at the beginning of each day.
Ancient Egypt links the god Thoth to several vital aspects of their lives. His mansion served as a safe place for souls to rest and help against demons even in the afterlife. Moreover, people around the ancient land revered the god. His magic continues to live on from the old pages of history into modern Egypt.