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(Also Khnemu, earlier Qbeh, Khenmew, Khenmu, Chnum)

Lord Of The Cataract
“Lord Of The Cool Waters”
“Father of the Fathers of the Gods and Goddesses, Lord of Created Things from Himself, Maker of Heaven and Earth and the Duat and Water and the Mountains”
“Father of Fathers and the Mother of Mothers”

Khnum is a very ancient self-created Egyptian creator god. He was originally a river god associated with the annual inundation of the Nile river with silt. This predynastic version of Khnum was called Qebh, and his symbol was of a flat horned ram. When he became a helper to Hapi, his role changed to include guardian of the source of the Nile, and the one who controled the flow of silt during the yealy floods.

It was this role of regulating the silt flow that lead to Khnum as a god of creation. Silt was the medium of the Egyptian potter, and using fertile silt, Khnum made men and gods, and the very world. He also molded the egg that hatched into the sun. The fertility aspect of this god continued with his role of molding the infant and its ka within the womb, giving it the breath of life and then maintaining the health of the child after birth.

As a water diety, Khnum is often depicted on temple walls as a human holding a jar, with the waters of the Nile flowing from it. In his role as a creator god, he is depicted as a ram, a man with the head of a ram or a man with ram’s horns wearing a white-plumed crown of Upper Egypt. In his human form he is sometimes shown sitting before his potter’s wheel molding a naked man.

It is interesting to note that in early depictions, Khnum was shown as the first breed of domesticated ram, Ovis longipes palaeoaegyptiacus, which had long curving horns growing outwards (not up) from the head. In later depictions, long after that breed had died out, he was shown as Ovis platyra (a breed associated with Amen) which had horns curving inward towards the face.

Occasionally, Khnum was shown as a four-headed ram. Each head was aligned with a different diety: Ra (the sun god), Shu (the air god), Geb (the earth god) and Osiris (the lord of the dead). In this form, he was called Sheft-hat. This god’s association with the ram (which the Egyptians saw as a very potent animal) further emphasized his connections with fertility.

The cult of Khnum was popular before it was eclipsed by the cult of Ra. The main centers were at Arsinoë, Philae, Elephantine and Esna. Elephantine was said to be the “Seat of the First Time”, or the place where creation first took place. Kings would make pilgrimages to the island to secure another year’s inundation. In the New Kingdom he was worshipped there with his wife Satet and his daughter Anqet. He also had a number of consorts: Menhyt (a lion headed war goddess), Nebtu (goddess of the oasis), Heket, Neith and Sati.

Khnum is mentioned in the pyramid texts, and the pyramid builder Khufu’s full name was Khnum-Khufu which means “Khnum is his protector”. He has been associated with the protection of the dead.


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