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The Triad of Thebes

During the Middle Kingdom, (2133-1786 B.C), Thebes was regarded as the center of the political and religious affairs in Egypt and the center of the civilized world. The most distinguishing feature of that city that was locating about 700 meters away from Memphis is its luxuriously and gracefully designed buildings. There were many gods and goddesses worshiped in that area including Wast in Waset, and Amun who was one of the minor gods of the north in Thebes in the early dynasties.

– The Ram-God, Amun

By the 12th dynasty, Amun became the major god worshiped in Egypt since his followers gained more political leverage in Egypt. He became the head of the triad of Thebes with his wife Mut and their son Khons. By the beginning of the 18th dynasty, Amun was associated with the earlier sun god, Ra, and known as Amun-Ra. Most of the myths about his origin and his creation are similar to those of Ra, but his shape was completely different. This new sun god was regarded as the uniter of the upper and the lower land of Egypt since it was the only national god to be worshiped here and there after worshiping several gods and goddesses. He was magnified also as the creator of the universe the defender of his eye. In addition to being the national god, Amun-Ra was the personal god who determines the length of mortal’s lifespan and makes those who win his satisfaction live longer. The main center for worshipping Amun was in the temple of Karnak that is regarded as one of the largest funerary buildings all over the world. The original building traces back to the 12th dynasty while many processes of restoration and enlargement have been made in the following reigns. The paintings on the Karnak walls highlight in detail the ceremonies of the annual festival of Opet that demonstrate how the sun god was taken every year from the Karnak at the time of the flood to visit the temple of Luxor and the rituals that had been performed for greeting the divine god and the offerings and sacrifices that had been made for the Triad. For a short period of time Amun Ra’s was replaced by Aton since Amenhutep IV, Ikhnaton, called for monotheism and forced the people to worship his new god who is embodied as the rays of the sun. Ikhnaton disbelieved in all the other gods and goddesses and the human personification for them and exerted a lot of effort to make the people believe in his own god and made Tal El-Amarna the capital of the country and the worship of Aton. The remains of his temples there explain the rituals performed for Aton. In the reign of Tutankhamun, the successor of Amenhutep IV, the worship of Amun was restored and the worship of Aton died out. Many of the depiction of Amun associates him with the ram such as a ram-headed man, a ram with two curved horns, or a man with two straight parallel plums over his head. The reason for involving the ram in all the depictions of Amun, as Herodotus demonstrates, is the ancient Egyptian’s belief in the myth of “The Hidden One”. Amun was the god that no one can see and this was the secret of his power and the reason for calling him the Hidden One. One day Amun’s son insisted on seeing the shape of his father, but Amun tricked him by covering himself with the skin of a ram and putting the head of the ram before his face in order to make him think that this is the real shape of his father. In addition to the depictions, the Egyptians were prohibiting sacrificing the rams except for the one that was sacrificed in order to use its skin as a cover for the statue of Amun before displaying it before the statue of Khons every year. Due to the great leverage of the national god Amun, a great wealth was accumulated for him and a large number of statues, slaves, and cattle were dedicated to him. Amun was also associated with the wind and the air in other myths that tell about his major power that make the monsters of the dark water fear him and his great role as the guide of the mariners.

– Amun as a Protector of the Kings of Waset

As it is clear in the myth of creation of Hermopolis, Amun was regarded as the sun god and the creator of the whole world and his consort Amaunet was the goddess of air. Among the duties of Amun is protecting the king and supporting him to defeat his enemies. One of the incomplete stories that date from the era of the Ramsses Kings expounds Amun’s ability for protecting the king and solving his crucial problems. It says that Apohis, the king of the Hyksos and one of Seth’s assistants, was trying to destabilize the Theban kingdom at the age of King Seknenre, and prove that he was mistaken in depending on one god only for protecting him. Apohis complained to the king from the noises of the hippopotamuses that annoys him and hinders him from sleeping. Unfortunately, the solution of this problem and the king’s reaction towards Apohis’s complaint are unknown, but the motive for inscribing such story, proving that the sun god alone is able to protect the king, is clear.

– The Taking of The Joppa

This tale dates from the reign of king Thutmose III and was used as a means for glorifying the duties of Amun. Joppa was one of the cities captured by Thutmose III and then its people rebelled against him. This rebellion made the king assigns General Djehuty to put an end for this problem and overcome the rebels. The General played a trick on the leaders of the rebellion by inviting them for negotiation out of their land and then tortured them severely with the cane of Thutmose and enslaved them. Then he sent a messenger to the city telling its inhabitants that Djehuty had been defeated and would pay attribute for them. Then he sent them 200 baskets as a gift of peace in which his soldiers were hiding to enter the city. As soon as the baskets reached, the soldiers spread throughout the city and controlled over it. After achieving victory, the General sent a message to the king telling him that he managed to defeat the rebels of Joppa and take its people as captives and the reason for all that success is the support of Amun-Ra and provides him with power.

– Amun-Ra, The Devine Parent

Amun-Ra as Devine parent is one of the most interesting myths made up by Hatsheput as a means for justifying her accession to the throne and to acquire some divine power that help her in keeping her place. Hatsheput was the first woman to ascend the throne of Egypt and she exerted a lot of effort to obtain that. She is always depicted on the walls of the temples as a woman with a false beard since she managed to occupy the throne of Egypt in the 18th dynasty. The myth, beautifully inscribed on the wall of her Temple of El-Deir El-Bahri, says that the sun god expressed his wish to be the father of the next heir of the throne whose name would be Hatsheput. Thuth suggested that Aahmes, the handsome and attractive wife of Thutmose I the king of Upper and Lower Egypt, would be a good choice and Amun-Ra agreed on that. The sun god disguised in the shape of the husband, King Thutmose I, to be able to reach the room with out disturbance and seduce the women and made her pregnant. Before leaving, he told her that he is not her husband and that she is blessed with holding a relation with the Chief god Amun-Ra and being the mother of the divine girl whose name would be Hatsheput and the woman was pleased for that. He foretold her that her daughter would be the king of the Upper and Lower Egypt. After that Amun-Ra met the god who is responsible for creating the mortal beings on his potter’s wheel and commanded him to give his daughter health, happiness, and eternal life and he obeyed the commands. When the time of birth was due, Amun-Ra came on the top of a group of gods and goddesses including Meskhent, goddess of birth, and Bess, goddess of dance and music whose terrifying appearance was used as a means for frightening the snakes, to help the mother. After giving birth the goddesses surrounding the mother gave the newborn girl the Ankh which is the symbol for life. Then they took the daughter to Amun-Ra who blessed her and foretold her that she would be one of the greatest kings in the history of Egypt and would set on the throne of Horus. Then a cow-headed goddess took the baby to determine how many years she would stay in that position and then retuned her to Amun-Ra who blessed her with strength and wealth and many other blessings.

– The Godess Mut

Mut in the ancient Egyptian mythology was the second member of the triad of Thebes; Amun-Ra’s wife and the mother of Khonsu . She was as the Mother of the world who created every thing with the chief god. In the book of the Dead, she is described as the creator of the souls and bodies of the mortal beings and the one who saved them from the dangers of the evil chamber. Mut was also believed to be a protective goddess and this justifies her association with the vulture. Thus she is presented sometimes in the Book of the Dead as a woman with a vulture over her head topped with the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt and some time as a woman with winged arms of a vulture. There are some paintings that identify her with Maat and others display her standing next to the plume of Maat. The temple in the Karnak was the main center of worshiping Mut and it date from the reign of Amenhutep III, while there are some other places for worshiping her in Upper Egypt. The temple of the Karnak was one of the greatest religious places where the wife of Ptah was amalgamated with her counterpart from Thebes. This building was once admired for its eight granite statues of Sekhmet and its two inner courtyards that are in a ruinous state now.

– God Khnosu

Khnosu was one of the Triad of Thebes; the son of Amun-Ra and his consort Mut and was known as the traveler. The ancient Egyptians believed that Khnosu was the god of the moon and the god of fertility who helps women to become pregnant and the animals to conceive. He is usually depicted as a hawk-headed man with a lunar disk over his head. There are other depictions for him as a man with two hawk heads one of them topped with the solar disk and the other one with the lunar disk. The main center for worshiping Khnosu is his temple in the Karnak that was initiated by Ramsses III and completed by his successors who were all worshipers of Khnosu. The priests of Khnosu made up many myths that tell the people about his numerous blesses and supernatural power to attract more people for worshiping him. He was regarded as the consultant of the gods and goddesses who help them in making the right and wise decision that works for the good of mankind and helps mankind in solving their problems. There are some paths in the temple of Khnosu that can be entered only by the chief priest of Khnosu where he can receive the commands of god and hear his opinion in the problems of the people.

– The Tale of the Daughter of the Prince of Bekhten

One of the most interesting myths that demonstrate the mighty power of Khnosu is the one of the daughter of the Prince of Bekhten. This king was the father of the consort of the king of Egypt at that time whose country lies in a very far place from Egypt. The younger daughter of the Prince was severely ill and the physicians of his country could not cure her. The prince asked for help from the king of Egypt who sent him an Egyptian physician. Unfortunately the illness of the princess was caused by evil spirits that only Khnosu Neferhetep can defeat. The king of Egypt asked the mighty god to make his magical power take the form of another statue for him and allow them to send it to Bekhten to cure the princess. The god agreed and the statue of Khnosu Neferhetep went to cure the girl. The mighty power of Khnosu enabled him to defeat the evil spirit causing the suffer of the princess quickly to the extent that that spirit asked for staying for a while with the powerful god who managed to overcome it easily and his wish was met. The prince of Bekhten was grateful to the god and tried to keep him in his country as long as he could, but finally the god took the shape of a golden hawk and returned to Egypt. After that the prince of Bekhten came to Egypt with a huge a mount of gifts and sacrifices for the mighty Khnosu Neferhetep, the conqueror of demons of darkness.

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