Khnum, also spelt Khnemu, was the ancient Egyptian god of fertility, associated with water and procreation. Khnum was worshipped from the 1st dynasty (c. 2925–2775 BCE) into the early centuries CE. He was represented as a ram with horizontal twisting horns or as a man with a ram’s head.
Khnum, also romanised Khnemu, was one of the earliest-known Egyptian deities, originally the god of the source of the Nile. Since the annual flooding of the Nile brought with it silt and clay, and its water brought life to its surroundings, he was thought to be the creator of the bodies of human children, which he made at a potter’s wheel from clay, and placed in their mothers’ wombs. He was later described as having moulded the other deities, and he had the titles “Divine Potter” and “Lord of created things from himself”.
General Information about God Khnum
The worship of Khnum centred on two principal riverside sites, Elephantine and Esna, which were regarded as sacred sites. At Elephantine, he was worshipped alongside Satis and Anuket. At Esna, he was honoured alongside Menhit, Nebtu, Neith and Heka. Khnum was regarded as the guardian of the source of the Nile River. His significance led to early theophoric names for children, such as Khnum-Khufwy, “Khnum is my Protector”, the full name of Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Khnum has also been related to the deity Min.
Temple at Elephantine
The Elephantine temple dates back to at least the Middle Kingdom. Khnum, Satis and Anuket are all attested at Elephantine by the Eleventh Dynasty. The temple at Elephantine was dedicated to Khnum, his consort Satis, and their daughter, Anuket.
During the New Kingdom, finds from the time of Ramesses II show Khnum was still worshipped there.
Opposite Elephantine, on the east bank at Aswan, Khnum, Satis and Anuket are shown on a chapel wall dating to the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
Temple at Esna
In Esna, a temple was dedicated to Khnum, Neith, and Heka. This temple began construction in Ptolemaic times, but most of the surviving parts of the temple were built in Roman times.
Khnum was sometimes depicted as a crocodile-headed god. Nebt-uu and Menhit are Khnum’s principal consorts, and Heka is his eldest son and successor. Both Khnum and Neith are referred to as creator deities in the texts at Esna. Khnum is sometimes referred to as the “father of the fathers” and Neith as the “mother of the mothers”. They later become the parents of Ra, who is also referred to as Khnum-Re.
Khnum, accompanied by the goddess Heqet, moulds Ihy in a relief from the mammisi (birth temple) at the Dendera Temple complex, Egypt.
In other locations, such as Herwer (Tuna el-Gebel perhaps), as the moulder and creator of the human body, he was sometimes regarded as the consort of Heket, or of Meskhenet, whose responsibility was breathing life into children at the moment of birth, as the kꜣ (“ka”).
In art, ancient painters usually depicted Khnum as a ram-headed man at a potter’s wheel, with recently created children’s bodies standing on the wheel. They also showed him holding a jar from which flowed a stream of water.