Dec 21, 2012
Book of Thoth
As relayed by Dr. Alex Graves
Book of Thoth is a name given to many ancient Egyptian texts supposed to have been written by Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing and knowledge. They include a text that is known and has been translated, many texts that were claimed to exist by ancient authors, and a magical book that appears in an Egyptian work of fiction.
The Egyptians stored many texts, on a wide range of subjects, in “Houses of Life”, the libraries contained within temple complexes. As Thoth was the god of knowledge, many of these texts were claimed to be his work. The Egyptian historian Manetho claimed that Thoth wrote 36,525 books.
The church father Clement of Alexandria, in the sixth book of his work Stromata, mentions forty-two books used by Egyptian priests that he says contain “the whole philosophy of the Egyptians”. All these books, according to Clement, were written by Hermes (the Greek name for Thoth). Among the subjects they cover are hymns, rituals, temple construction, astrology, geography, and medicine.
The Egyptologists Richard Lewis Jasnow and Karl-Theodor Zauzich have dubbed a long Egyptian text from the Ptolemaic period “the Book of Thoth”. This Demotic text, known from more than forty fragmentary copies, consists of a dialogue between a person called “The-one-who-loves-knowledge” and a figure that Jasnow and Zauzich identify as Thoth. The topics of their conversation include the work of scribes, various aspects of the gods and their sacred animals, and the Duat, the realm of the dead
One of the deities of the Egyptian pantheon. In art, he was often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis or a baboon, animals sacred to him. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at.
Thoth’s chief temple was located in the city of Khmun, later called Hermopolis Magna during the Greco-Roman era (in reference to him through the Greeks’ interpretation that he was the same as their god Hermes). In that city, he led the Ogdoad pantheon of eight principal deities. He also had numerous shrines within the cities of Abydos, Hesert, Urit, Per-Ab, Rekhui, Ta-ur, Sep, Hat, Pselket, Talmsis, Antcha-Mutet, Bah, Amen-heri-ab, and Ta-kens.
Thoth’s roles in Egyptian mythology were many. He served as a mediating power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (i.e. hieroglyphs) themselves. In the underworld, Duat, he appeared as an ape, A’an, the god of equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the deceased’s heart against the feather, representing the principle of Ma’at, was exactly even.
The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self-produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (i.e. Divine) law. He is credited with making the calculations for the establishment of the heavens, stars, Earth,30 and everything in them. His power was unlimited in the Underworld and rivaled that of Ra and Osiris.
The Egyptians credited him as the author of all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic.
Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma’at) who stood on either side of Ra’s boat. In the later history of ancient Egypt, Thoth became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, the arts of magic, the system of writing, the development of science, and the judgment of the dead.