Amun is one of the most important and fascinating deities of ancient Egypt. His name means “the hidden one” or “the obscure one” and he was associated with the air, the wind, and the breath of life. He was also the patron god of Thebes, the capital city of Egypt during the New Kingdom (c. 1570-1069 BCE).
Amun’s origins are shrouded in mystery. He was first mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (c. 2400-2300 BCE) as a local god of Thebes, along with his consort Amaunet. He was part of the Ogdoad, a group of eight primordial gods who represented the elements of creation. Amun represented the hidden aspect of existence, while the other gods represented more clearly defined concepts such as darkness, water, and infinity.
Amun’s role and power evolved over time. During the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055-1650 BCE), he rose to prominence as the king of the gods, replacing Montu, the war god of Thebes. He was also identified with Ra, the sun god, and became known as Amun-Ra. He was worshipped as the creator, the father, and the protector of all living things. He was especially revered by the pharaohs, who claimed to be his sons and built magnificent temples for him.
Amun’s cult reached its peak during the New Kingdom, when he was considered the national god of Egypt. He was worshipped throughout the land and beyond, as his influence spread to Nubia, Libya, and even Greece, where he was equated with Zeus. He was depicted in various forms, such as a man with a double-plumed headdress, a ram-headed man, a ram, a goose, a snake, or a crocodile. He was also associated with different animals and symbols that represented his attributes, such as fertility, wisdom, and justice.
Amun’s popularity and power eventually provoked the wrath of Akhenaten (c. 1353-1336 BCE), the heretic pharaoh who tried to abolish the traditional polytheistic religion and establish a monotheistic cult of Aten, the sun disk. Akhenaten closed down Amun’s temples and erased his name from monuments. However, after Akhenaten’s death, his successors restored Amun’s worship and tried to erase Akhenaten’s memory instead.
Amun remained an important god until the end of ancient Egyptian civilization. He was still worshipped by some people in Roman times, who called him Jupiter Ammon. He also influenced other religions, such as Gnosticism and Hermeticism, which regarded him as a supreme deity or a manifestation of the divine mind.
Amun is a fascinating example of how a god can evolve from a local deity to a universal one, reflecting the changes in history, culture, and beliefs of his worshippers. He is also a reminder of how much we still do not know about ancient Egypt and its mysteries.
Mut: The Great Mother
Mut was Amun’s consort and the queen of the gods. Her name means “mother” and she was regarded as the mother of everything in the world. She was also a maternal goddess who protected women, children, and the pharaoh. She was sometimes identified with other goddesses, such as Sekhmet, Hathor, Ma’at, and Bastet, and inherited their attributes and symbols.
Mut was usually depicted as a woman wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, symbolizing her authority over the whole land. She also wore a vulture headdress, representing her maternal aspect and her association with Nekhbet, the vulture goddess of Upper Egypt. Sometimes she was shown with the head or body of a lioness, a cat, or a cow, reflecting her connection with other goddesses. She also wore the uraeus, the royal cobra, on her forehead, indicating her power and protection.
Khonsu: The Moon God
Khonsu was Amun and Mut’s son and the god of the moon. His name means “the traveler” or “the wanderer” and he was associated with time, healing, and magic. He was also linked to Thoth, the god of wisdom and writing, who was also a lunar deity.
Khonsu was usually depicted as a young boy with a side-lock of hair, wearing a lunar disk on his head. Sometimes he was shown as a falcon-headed man or a falcon wearing the lunar disk and crescent. He was also represented as a mummified man holding a crook and flail, the symbols of kingship.