Waset – meaning “City of the Scepter” or alternatively “City of the Set” – was the Kemetic/ancient Egyptian name of Thebes, the Greek designation for the fourth Upper Egyptian nome along Africa’s Nile River. In the religion of Kemet (meaning land of the Blacks), Set (Seth in Greek) was god of the desert, storms, disorder, violence and foreigners… the quintessential antagonist. The Was scepter on the other hand represents the power and dominion of gods, pharaohs, and priests over such an enemy presence. Amplified by amulets such as the ankh (key of life) and the djed-pillar (god’s backbone/stability), the Was scepter is a symbol of truth, order and control over the forces of chaos that Set brings in. Amun, Mut and Montu/Khonsu – commonly referred to as the Triad of “Thebes” – are introduced in this post as a divine representative unit of dominion over chaos established in their pre-Graeco, African context of Waset. Language can act as a cultural tool and/or weapon, depending on where one is centered…
Amun (Amen, Amon, Amoun)
- Amun means “The Hidden One.” Expressed as Amen in Hebrew – meaning “let it be” – at the end of prayers, the name of this ancient Egyptian deity (one of Africa’s most important) is used to magically evoke divine response.
- A local Waset god from earliest times, Amun was regarded as a member of the primordial Ogdoad by the priests of Hermopolis. All other creator-gods were said to be just reflections of Amun who evolved into the sun-god Re.
- Ancient Waset traditions held that Djehuti (“Thoth” in his Greek colonial designation) was responsible for creation of the Ogdoad, eight primordial deities complementarily paired to bring forth order from the four original properties of chaos: (i) Amun/Amaunet (invisibility); (ii) Hah/Hauhet (infinity/eternity); (iii) Nun/Naunet (waters and the sky); and (iv) Kuk/Kauket (darkness).
- Later traditions cast Amun in the role of self-created god who shaped the ordered world out of chaos. As creation god he sometimes assumed the name of Kematef (Greek Kneph) in his depiction as a snake. Alternatively, as ithyphallic fertility god, he is depicted as ram-headed or as a ram.
- Amun’s influence was local until the Middle Kingdom. He gained national pre-eminence as Amun-Re when Waset kings established their sovereignty over Kemet (“Egypt”).
- Amun-Re was designated “King of the Gods” by the 18th Dynasty. Karnak, his infamous temple, is the largest religious structure ever built by man.
- As the state god during the expansionist period of Egypt’s history, Amun is said to have received offerings of vast wealth in his temples, as well as penises from fallen uncircumcised enemies and the severed hands of the circumcised fallen as thanks for military successes.
- Given their role in Amun’s creation process, both penis and hand were symbols for his powers. Depictions of Amun commonly present him with a fully erect penis, popularly symbolized in the Kemetic architecture of the obelisk.
- The 18th Dynasty rule of Akhenaten (“beneficial to Aten”) – who was invested as king in the temple where his uncle was High Priest – opened in conflict against Amun’s powerful priesthood by discouraging the worship of all gods but Aten, by flaunting customs, and by refusing to recognize Karnak as Kemet’s capital.
After his death, Akhenaten’s monotheistic cult was replaced with a revival of the traditional religious support of the state god, Amun, and the capital was returned to Waset. The king himself changed his name from Tutankhaten (“living image of Aten”) to Tutankhamun (“living image of Amun“).
- A syncretism was formed between Amun, Ptah and Re during the New Kingdom, the latter two losing their separate identities and merging with Amun who became a universal god during the Third Intermediate Period under the powerful Waset priesthood which ruled part of Kemet. As the Kemetic god, Amun was a powerful national symbol, his adherents often rebelling against the rule of foreigners.
- Very little is known about the actual worship of Amun.
Budge interpreted the Amun of the 19th and 20th Dynasties as “an invisible creative power which was the source of all life in heaven, and on the earth, and in the great deep, and in the Duat, the Realm of the Dead, and which made itself manifest under the form of Re.“
- Identified with Zeus by the Hellenists, Amun eventually lost followers to Isis (Auset in her Kemetic designation), who became popular among Greeks and Romans prior to being identified as “Mary” under a Christian order. The worship of Amun was finally eclipsed by the advent of Christianity in Kemet/”Egypt”.
Mut (Mwt, Maut, Golden Dawn)
- Mut is the archaic Kemetic name meaning “mother.” Called Mut, who giveth birth, but was herself not born of any, Mut was a self-created goddess whom Africans regarded as the divine world mother; queen of all gods and goddesses; and mother of the pharaohs. She is believed to have originally existed as the female counter-part of Nun, the primeval waters of the Ogdoad cosmos. Post-Old Kingdom (2,686-2,134 BCE) distinctions between cosmic water and motherhood enabled Mut’s stature to grow in to prominence as the mother from which the cosmos emerged during the 18th Dynasty (1539-1292 BCE).
- The hieroglyphic depiction of the goddess’s name is the same griffon vulture (gyps fulvus) used to write the letter “A” (alpha in Greek) and the word “mother”… Thus Alpha-Omega (“A-Z,” used to symbolize “beginning” and “end” by biblical scholars indoctrinated in the technology of a western – i.e. Greek – alphabet) represents the consortium of Mut–Amun.
- Africans believed vultures to be very maternal, and drew parallels between Mut’s hermaphroditic representation (she has a penis in some depictions) and the lack of sexual dimorphism between male and female of the vulture species. Headdresses worn by certain Queens of Kemet’s New Kingdom were designed in the form of a vulture to symbolize divine motherhood and the purification role of these goddesses in the afterlife. This purification role is similar to the ecological role that a group or “wake” of vultures plays in the natural world when scavenging on carcasses.
- Surmounted by the Double Crown, symbolizing a unified South/Upper and North/Lower Egypt (typically worn by the king and by the god Atum) Mut’s composite headdress distinguished her above other goddesses in stature. Dressed in bright red or blue, Mut held the papyrus scepter and ankh in her hands, while the feather of Ma’at was depicted laying at her feet.
- In Waset, Mut replaced Amaunet (identified in the Ogdoad) as the wife and consort of Amun, rising to prominence from local deity status to that of queen of the gods when her husband became national god during the New Kingdom.
- Waset gods became national gods when the city became Kemet’s capital, and Mut thus became the queen-mother of the nation. She was particularly popular with 18th and 19th Dynasty Pharoaoh Hatshepsut as well as with the wife of Ramses II, Nefertari Merytnmut (“Nefertari, Beloved of Mut”). A major part of Mut’s temple at Karnak was constructed during the 18th Dynasty by Amenhopis III, another popular supporter.
- When Amun fused with the sun-god Re, Mut became the Eye of Re – a title also associated with Sekhmet, Hathor, Tefnut, Bast and Auset (Greek “Isis”) – and began to embody the heat of the sun in Her traditional lioness form, fiercely protecting Kemet according to god’s will. The Eye of Re cult thereafter became vital to life and rule in Kemet.
- In a ritual honoring Mut it is asserted that she was present at the splitting of the Ished tree together with Re in Heliopolis. As the sacred ‘Tree of Life’ at the Garden of Eden adopted in the biblical book of Genesis, the Ished tree’s fruit provided privileged knowledge to Pharaohs of the Divine Plan, which would ensure their Eternal Life as resurrected gods.
- In the late New Kingdom Mut began to be counted among the original gods such as Ptah of Memphis with whom she is associated, and one of Her epithets as such is Mother of the Sun in Whom He Rises. Mut’s powers are described in Chapter 164 of the Book of the Dead as being able to deliver souls and bodies from ‘the abode of demons which are in the evil chamber.’ One of the other important rituals of deliverance performed in Mut’s temple was the ‘overthrowing of Apep,’ the serpent who was hostile to the sun god.
- Mut‘s temple precinct – a quarter of Waset called Isheru/Asher/Ashrel – remained an important religious center for almost 2,000 years. Surrounded on three sides by a crescent-shaped lake called the Isheru – a term describing sacred lakes specific to leonine goddesses – the temple is the focal point of Mut’s precinct. Her Isheru is the largest in present-day Egypt that is still preserved.
- Situated to the south of the great temple of Amun-Re to which it is oriented, Hwt-Mwt (“the estate of Mut”) had an avenue of sphinxes approaching the temple, which was adorned by numerous other depictions of Her as Sekhmet (the Eye of Re). Mut’s substance and powers increased with Her absorption of such warrior-goddesses – including Bast, Wadjet, Nekhbet, and Menhit. All this was done in keeping with the African hallmark of maintaining the complementary balance of powers between female and male consort deities, Mut and Amun being foremost among them.
- During the Middle Kingdom, when Amun’s authority was at its height in Waset and Kemet, Mut was worshiped in the temple as “the Great Lady of Isheru~the Sacred Lake… the Lady of Heaven… the Queen of the Gods…”
A popular holiday during this period was the Festival of Mut, where a statue of the goddess was placed on a boat and sailed around the sacred crescent-moon-shaped lake – the ‘Isheru’ – at Her temple in Karnak.
- The marriage of Mut and Amun was one of the great annual celebrations during the New Kingdom in which a great following would escort the god between Luxor and Karnak where His visit with the goddess would assure fertility for the coming year.
- Before Her temple fell into disrepair during the Roman period, Mut had been absorbed into the Ennead – a successful corporate identity in which the compound triad of Mut, Hathor and Auset (“Isis” in Greek) became known as Isis alone. Enduring into the 7th century AD, the cult of Isis (later Mary in a repackaged ideological script) spread through Greece, Rome, and Britain.
Montu (Khonsu, Khonshu)
- Montu or Khonsu was the son of Mut and Amun. He was a moon god like his elder Djehuti (“Thoth”). As such, Montu was a traveler whose lunar aspects were reflected in Mut’s Isheru lake and ritual. One of the best-known stories of Montu says he wagered a portion of his light against Djehuti in the ancient game of senet/ “passage” and because he lost, Montu/Khonsu waxes and wanes like the moon, unable to show his whole glory for the entire month.
- The regularity of the moon has from ancient times been the basis for the Egyptian 12-month Lunar calendar. It is described in Pyramid Text 273 thus: The moon god Khonsu, pendulum of heaven, precise divider of months, Khonsu, most mathematical aspect of Thoth…
- Typically depicted with a sidelock of hair (the symbol of childhood) and wearing the crescent of the new moon subtending the full-moon disc, Montu/Khonsu is closely linked to other divine children such as Heru/”Horus” (Greek) and Shu. Like Heru, Montu – portrayed standing on crocodiles – was a protector against dangerous animals. At times he was also depicted as a mummy or, like Heru, with a falcon head and/or holding the symbols of a ruler – the crook and flail.
- Considered the child of Ptah and Sekhmet in Lower Kemet, Montu had a violent temper, devouring the hearts of lesser deceased deities and earning himself the designation Slaughterer of the Lords and Destroyer of Evil Spirits. Montu thus came to be associated with fate, judgment, punishment, and sometimes healing.
- In Upper Kemet Montu/Khonsu was worshipped as the third member of the great Triad of Waset. Montu’s birth to Amun and Mut – the other two Triad members – was commemorated in the amammisi, a temple celebrating the divine birth of a god. In later times Ptolemaic rulers re-carved scenes and added reliefs of the divine birth on the main sanctuary of the Temple in Mut’s precinct. The main enclosure in the Temple of Karnak is dedicated to Montu/Khonsu where he is shown as the great serpent fertilizing the Cosmic Egg in the creation of the world.
- The organic and sacred wisdom of ancient Egypt testifies that the forces of creation set in motion from the Ogdoad found their greatest expression in the balance represented in the “Triad of Waset.” A model for later trinities, this is symbolized by the feather of Ma’at (representing truth, balance, divine order, justice, reciprocity) which lies at the feet of mother-goddess Mut. As the Lady of the Isheru – representing the Great Lake of humankind’s actual Eden – Mut and Her consort Amun have evolved in clarity since the primordial Ogdoad purportedly authored by Djehuti, but then thrown into chaos by Set. Each represents the respective creational domains of the divine feminine and masculine. Their gender-complemetary union as Mut-Amun is the probable origin of the “Alpha and Omega” referenced in the final book of the Christian bible: Revelation. This conjecture is supported by historical facts and the adoption of the popular cult of Isis (Auset) – the ancient Kemetic derivative of Mut – and conversion of her into the goddess “Mary”of the Graeco-Roman/Judeo-Christian script.
The ankh – which is sacrosanct between the parental African divinities and helps to anchor and define the sacred consciousness of other Kemetic goddesses and their gods – testifies to this essential and eternal balance which is key to Life itself. The collective backbone required to withstand the adversarial forces of Set is reinforced by the Was scepter and Djed pillar of the divinities. Amun…
(B’earth’day dedication to Nambwaya: “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction…” ~ Miss you, sis ❤ )