Thursday, March 12, 2009


Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

The Ancient Egyptians both respected and feared the power of the crocodile. Both the strength and speed of the crocodile became symbolic of the power of the Pharaoh, being that its strength and energy of the animal became the manifestation of the Pharaoh’s own power, showing the ruler’s might.

Sobek (Sobeq, Sebek, Sochet or Suchos) was the god who brought fertility to the land, the “Lord of the Waters,” who rose from the “Dark Water” and created the world and order in the universe. Sobek first appeared in the Old Kingdom as the son of Neith with the epithet "The Rager” and it is suggested that Seth, god of hostility and chaos was his father. The word 'sovereign' was written with the hieroglyph of a crocodile this way the crocodile or Sobek would be linked to the Pharaoh, the sovereign of Egypt. It was believed that Sobek could protect the Pharaoh from dark magic. During the Twelfth and Thirteenth Dynasties, the cult of Sobek was given particular prominence and a number of rulers incorporated him in their coronation names.

Sobek was often depicted either as a crocodile-headed man or as a full crocodile, he was shown wearing a plumed headdress with a horned sun disk or the atef crown (associating him with Amun-Ra) and in his hand he was shown carrying the Was scepter (representing power) and the Ankh (representing the breath of life).

The Egyptians believed that besides having the form of a crocodile, Sobek also had its nature. He could also use this force to protect the justified dead in their after life from Seth, who attacked those souls who traveled through the land of the dead. He was the protector and rescuer of the other gods... yet he could also use that power to savage his enemies and the sinful deceased. He was venerated as one who restored sight and senses to the dead and who protected them. He could bring water and fertility to the land. He was a god that was both feared and respected by the ancient Egyptians.

The tale goes to say that Sobek laid his eggs on the bank of the waters, thus starting the creation process. He was a fertility god, 'He Who Made the Herbage Green' with his sweat (of all things…)! This explains his link to the rebirth of the deceased into the afterlife. The Nile and its waters was important for the survival of crops, the success of trade, and the livelihood of fishing, but the waters were filled with crocodiles, so it only made sense that they only way to appease them is by worshiping their leader, Sobek. He was first mentioned in the Pyramid Text and his worship lasted till Roman Times.

Sobek represented the four elemental gods, Ra of fire, Shu of air, Geb of earth, and Osiris of water, making him a fourfold deity. He was revered for his ferocity and quick movement, it is said that he was the god who caught the four mummiform sons of Horus in a net (Imsety the human headed protector of the liver, Hapy the baboon headed protector of the lungs, Duamutef the jackal headed protector of the stomach and Qebehsenuef the falcon headed protector of the intestines), by gathering them as they emerged from the waters in a lotus bloom. He was also considered an aspect of Horus because Horus took the form of a crocodile to retrieve the parts of Osiris’ body which was cut up by the evil Seth who scattered the 13 pieces across the Nile, the intriguing part is he was also associated with Seth too. Sobek was supposed to have aided Isis when she gave birth to Horus. Later he was also worshiped as the manifestation of Amun-Ra and was often depicted wearing either the headdress of Amun or the sundisk of Ra.

The crocodile was revered in ancient Egypt and were considered sacred and protected. Temples were built in their honor, the tame crocodiles kept were decorated with jewels and fed by priests, meat and honey cakes. They were given elaborate and costly burials when they died. The dead crocodiles were mummified with the use of natron or salt, and then they were wrapped in strips of cloth, just as the humans of the time. Many tombs contained not only crocodiles of all ages but also the eggs of crocodiles. While in some places it was worshiped and revered, in other places the reptiles were killed. In ancient Egypt, Sobek was seen as an ambivalent creature.

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem
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