The Egyptian God Thoth

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Thoth the scribe is associated with the moon's mysteries. Image by Cheryl Forbes/Lonely Planet/Getty Images

Thoth (pronounced "Toth," rhyming with "both," rather than with "goth") was one of the most important deities of ancient Egyptian religion and worship. Thoth was known as the tongue of Ra, who had cursed him, and he often spoke on Ra's behalf.

Origins and History

Although he is referenced in some sources as being Ra's son, there is also a theory that Thoth managed to create himself by using the power of magical language.

He is known as the creator of magic and the messenger of the gods. Thoth is also referred to in some stories as the keeper of divine records, adviser to the gods, and mediator in disputes.

Thoth enjoyed a bit of a resurgence in popularity when Aleister Crowley published The Book of Thoth, which is a philosophical analysis of the Tarot. Crowley also created a Thoth Tarot deck.

J. Hill of Ancient Egypt Online says, "Many of the Egyptians' religious and civil rituals were organised according to a lunar calendar. As Thoth was associated with writing and with the moon it is perhaps unsurprising that he was also linked to the creation of the calendar. As his association with the moon waned, he developed into a god of wisdom, magic and the measurement of time. Similarly he was considered to measure and record time."

Appearance

Because Thoth is a lunar deity, he is often portrayed wearing a crescent on his head.

He is closely associated with Seshat, a goddess of writing and wisdom, who is known as the scribe of the divine. The Greeks saw him as Hermes, and so the center of Thoth's worship in the classical world was found in Hermopolis.

He is typically portrayed with the head of an ibis (a big, sacred wading bird), but in some images, his head is that of a baboon.

Both the ibis and the baboon were considered sacred to Thoth.

Mythology

Thoth appears in a significant role in the legend of Osiris and Isis. When Osiris was murdered and dismembered by his own brother, Set, his lover Isis went to gather up his pieces. It was Thoth who provided her with the magical words to resurrect Osiris so that she could conceive his child, Horus. Later on, when Horus was killed, Thoth appeared to help in his resurrection too.

Thoth is also credited with the creation of the sacred Egyptian Book of the Deada collection of spells and rituals. In addition, along with Isis, he is associated with the Book of Breathings, which is a collection of funerary texts that allow the deceased to continue existing in the realm of the dead.

Because his job was to speak the words that fulfilled Ra's wishes, Thoth is credited with creating the heavens and earth. He appears in a few legends as the god who weighs the souls of the dead, although many other stories assign that job to Anubis. At the very least, scholars seem to agree that no matter who was doing the weighing, it was Thoth who recorded the proceedings.

Worship and Celebration

During the late Egyptian period, Thoth was honored at his temple in Khmun, which later became the capital.

In their book Greek and Egyptian Mythologies, authors Yves Bonnefoy and Wendy Doniger tell us that Thoth “enjoyed a daily worship in his temple, which essentially consisted of the care of his body, meals, and adoration.” Specific offerings of writing cases, palettes, inks and other tools of the scribe were often made in his name.

Honoring Thoth Today

Thoth is sometimes called upon for workings related to wisdom, magic, and fate. Here are some ways you might call upon Thoth for assistance today:

  • Make an offering of handcrafted writing tools – inks, paper, or a quill pen - if you're working on anything to do with writing or communications -- creating a Book of Shadows or writing a spell, for instance.
  • Are you speaking words of healing or meditation, or mediating a dispute? Offer a prayer to Thoth, praising him for his wisdom and guidance.
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Wigington, Patti. "The Egyptian God Thoth." ThoughtCo, Oct. 30, 2017, thoughtco.com/egyptian-god-thoth-2561975. Wigington, Patti. (2017, October 30). The Egyptian God Thoth. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/egyptian-god-thoth-2561975 Wigington, Patti. "The Egyptian God Thoth." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/egyptian-god-thoth-2561975 (accessed April 20, 2018).