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The Egyptian God Thoth: God of Writing, Magic and Science

Updated on April 13, 2016
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I am a writer of witchery and am interested in all aspects of religious history and expression.

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Thoth, Egyptian deity of writing, magic, truth, the judgment of the dead in the afterlife, and so much more. I happen to be a personal devotee of Thoth after he unexpectedly approached me through a dream, so I'll cover my personal knowledge of Thoth as a patron deity in a future Hub if there's enough interest. For now, we'll stick to the basics (which is still quite a lot when it comes to this prominent Egyptian god!)



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How Thoth Got His Name(s)

Thoth is a god of many names, although Thoth and Djehuty are by far the most common. Djehuty is much closer to the earliest Egyptian references to the god, spelled quite simply as dhwty. Among those two names, numerous variations in spelling exist, including Tahuti, Jehuti, and Thot.

Djehuty means "He who is like the Ibis," which is fitting because the Ibis is the animal that Thoth is most frequently depicted as. During the Hellenistic period of Egyptian history, the Greeks gave Djehuty the name Thoth. The Greeks saw many similarities between the Egyptian deity and their own messenger god of healing, magic and writing and determined that the two entities were one and the same.

In addition to these names, Thoth also has various names by which he is known to his followers. A short list of these names includes:

  • Twice Great
  • Thrice Great
  • Silent One
  • Beloved by Ra
  • Sacred Ibis
  • Lion of the South
  • Heart of Ra

There are many more names, each of which describes a sacred aspect of the ancient god. Many of these names are quite sacred to those of us who follow him and should only be used by those who intend to invoke his power.

Thoth, Keeper of Sacred Knowledge

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Attributes of Thoth

Thoth is a truly unique deity in terms of the many notably powerful qualities he possesses in conjunction with a calm and peaceful demeanor. He is known as both the heart and tongue of Ra, and in Egyptian mythology, he takes on the role of Ra's messenger, communicating his will not only to the world but to the other gods as well.

According to the ancient Egyptians, Thoth is responsible for the following major duties:

  • Arbitration between the gods
  • Magic
  • Science
  • Writing
  • Eternal Judgment

Although the image most have of Thoth is purely scholarly, it would be remiss to neglect the fact that he is also a god of death. In the underworld, Thoth is the one who determines whether the heart of a deceased soul is equivalent to Ma'at's Feather of Truth. In fact, Thoth reserves limitless power in the underworld and is said to be responsible for speaking not only the universe itself into existence, but the other gods as well.

Although Thoth, like most deities, has his dark side, he is known primarily for his strong and unwavering sense of justice and truth. He is an indomitable ally of Ra and a constant defender of his throne against Set's attempt to usurp his power. In spite of his limitless power, Thoth has only been involved in three integral battles in Egyptian mythology. In each event, Thoth took on the role of overseer, ensuring that neither the good nor the evil god destroyed the other, preserving the divine balance by which the universe hangs.

Thoth's Physical Appearance

The Egyptian god Thoth is most commonly depicted as a man with the head of an Ibis. His other prevalent form is a man with the head of a baboon. In some instances, Thoth is said to appear as an ibis or a baboon entirely. Both animals were incredibly sacred to Thoth, who is said to have kept a male baboon companion (sometimes consort) with him in the underworld.

Thoth is almost always seen holding a stylus and a scribe's tablet, implements of his beloved discipline, but he is also sometimes depicted with an Ankh and scepter. The depictions seem to depend on whether the creator of the image believed that Thoth was creator of the universe, or merely one of the highest ranking deities in the Egyptian pantheon.

Thoth's symbols are the crescent moon and the Eye of Ra. In fact, he is often seen wearing a crown featuring a large crescent moon to symbolize his rule as a nocturnal deity. His visual association with the Ibis is also connected to the curved, crescent-like appearance of the crane's long beak.

The Baboon, Sacred to Thoth

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Individual Deity or Aspect of Ra?

A controversial theory within the Egyptian community is based around the identity of each of the Egyptian gods and whether they should be seen as aspects of God or individual deities who exist in their own right. In the former view, each deity is believed to represent a different body part that composes the whole of Ra. Thoth represents the heart and tongue of Ra due to his linguistic gifts and likely his role judging hearts upon Ma'at's scale in the underworld. This belief is strikingly similar to Wicca, which posits that all gods and goddesses are aspects of the same god and goddess. It also bears similarity to the Trinitarian doctrine within Christianity.

However, other Egyptologists starkly disagree with this view, asserting that the ancient Egyptians clearly viewed the gods and goddesses within their pantheon as unique and separate entities. Others theories hold that there are numerous gods and goddesses, but due to the significant similarities between certain gods within different pantheons, each culture has its own incarnation or aspect of those gods. This is largely the theory behind the Greek perception of Thoth as another aspect of their god Hermes. This belief was so prevalent that Hermes morphed into Hermes Trismegistus, and his major center of worship in Greece contained numerous temples and cults devoted to the Thoth aspect.

What do you think?

What do you think: Are Egyptian Gods Aspects of Ra or Individuals?

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Guardian of Time

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Role in Egyptian Myth

It would be easier to list the aspects of Egyptian Myth that Thoth isn't involved in. He is a particularly prolific and multi-talented deity, known for his rule over many different realms. From persuasion and peacemaking to magic and calendar creation, his hand was believed to touch nearly every aspect of life.

Although Thoth was perceived primarily as a lunar deity, some traditions herald him as a rare deity who presides over both the lunar and solar kingdoms. He later became associated with organized timekeeping, astronomical calculations, and more. In fact, he is believed to have originated our current 365-day calendar by wagering five more days with the moon.

Thoth is involved in another major Egyptian myth involving Horus and the Eye of Ra. In this myth, the malicious god Set was fighting for the throne of Osiris against Horus, its rightful heir and Osiris' son. During the course of battle, Seth gouged out Horus' left eye. In most versions of the story, it is Thoth who restores the eye which Horus eventually sacrifices in an attempt to bring his father back to life. For this reason, Thoth is frequently associated with medicine and healing through magic.

Thoth in Occultism and the New Age Movement

Thoth's image has come a long way from its Egyptian roots, with many claiming the deity for their own set of beliefs. This phenomenon is likely due to the fact that the Egyptian god Thoth is truly one of the most unique and powerful deities of any pantheon, without actually being at the center of the faith in which he originates. Even among the ancient Egyptians, there were cults that believed Thoth himself was the creator of the universe who spoke himself into existence, and ruled over all the other gods and goddesses. Others insist he is not a god but rather an extraterrestrial of extra-dimensional origin.

One of the most famous examples of Thoth's role in modern occultism is the Thoth Tarot, created by Aleister Crowley in 1943. The deck draws from many eclectic traditions, including Egyptian myth. The purpose of the deck was to bring the tarot back to its original symbolism, emphasizing the sciences and intricate symbolism. Thoth is also believed to be the keeper of the Akashic Record and the writer of the Emerald Tablets. Both theories are in keeping with Thoth's role as a writer and educator, spreading enlightenment to humanity.

Beyond his role in the occult, Thoth still has a small but devout number of followers who accept him as divine Teacher and Mentor. His imagery and influence can be found in many places, for those who know how to look.

Ancient Egyptian Religion

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