|Thoth and The Book of Thoth - The Myths behind the Legend
True, without falsehood, certain and most true, that which is above is the same as that which is below, and that which is below is the same as that which is above, for the performance of miracles of the One Thing.
Thoth -The Emerald Tablets of Thoth
The Myth & Legend of Thoth and The Book of Thoth
Thoth is one of the most complex Egyptian deities. According to classical belief it was Thoth who brought the idea of creation into existence by uttering the thoughts of the creator; Ptah then put those spoken words into effect. The ancient Egyptians considered Thoth to be the mind behind cosmic order, the architect of the universe. Thoth was the principal deity of the city of Hermopolis (the City of Hermes) or Khemnu as the Egyptians called it. According to Egyptian legend, the temple of Hermopolis housed fragments of the cosmic egg that Thoth himself as the divine Ibis, had hatched on the Island of creation, from the egg the first sun had risen.
Thoth’s association with the creation myth also extends to the divine birth of the pharaohs themselves. Thoth was said to lead Amun the king of gods to the bedchamber of the waiting queen.
Thoth was not only associated with the creation of the physical world, as the originator of the written word in the form of hieroglyphs, he is also credited with the authorship of The Book of the Dead (The Book of am Tuat). The Book of the dead is a book of spells, prayers and rituals that would assist the dead on their journey to the afterlife. According to Egyptian understanding the deceased person would be judged by a panel of 42 assessors of the dead, which corresponded with the 42 administrative areas that Egypt was divided into. From this originates the legend of the 42 Books of Thoth.
Hieroglyphs, the language of the gods.
Thoth’s most recognisable association is that of the god of writing, as such he is often depicted as a man with the head of an Ibis, holding a writing stylus and an ankh. Ra was said to have appointed Thoth ‘scribe of the Ennead’ before he retreated from the Earth knowing that Thoth’s wisdom would allow him to serve as humanities teacher and guardian. It was Thoth who was appointed to keep the affairs of humanity in order. The written word was an essential tool for organising and administering the government of Egypt bringing order and structure to a vast country. It has been estimated that contrary to popular belief, only around one percent of the Egyptian population was literate, most of these being priests, members of the ruling classes and scribes. Scribes, (sesh) were known as followers of Thoth and held a unique and respected position because of their skills and the connection with the words of the gods that those skills provided.
Hieroglyphs were known as ‘medu neter’, which translates as ‘words of the gods’. When temple priests carried out services in the temples and read from the temples texts they were thought to be reading and speaking the magical and divine words of the Gods themselves.
Whether in spoken or written form the words contained in these texts were considered so sacred and so powerful that as a precaution, certain hieroglyphs were actually inscribed in two separate halves to diminish their power, which was considered highly potent and capable of causing havoc if activated by mistake. Priests also conducted magical rituals to activate the divine power that their texts contained.
The influence of the mythology enshrined in the written word was such that over time developed into the legend of The Book of Thoth. According to both esoteric and occult legend, the book of Thoth was said to be the repository for the greater Egyptian mysteries. This was said to be a book of magic that was so powerful that one single spell that it contained it would give the person that spoke it access to all knowledge beyond book learned knowledge and to wisdom of Thoth himself. Legend has it that the Book of Thoth was hidden in an ancient tomb in Sakkara, in Northern Egypt.
Thoth and the Tarot
Because many occultists believe the Tarot to be an esoteric remnant of the legendary Book of Thoth, the tarot as a system, regardless of the deck origin, is often given the generic name of The Book of Thoth. Drawing on the origins of the Egyptian mystery school tradition, occultist Aleister Crowley took this association one step further by naming his tarot deck the THOTH deck. According to some the tarot was intended as a tool that would guide the initiate on a journey of enlightenment and discovery that would lead to both inner and outer knowledge and wisdom which parallels the Egyptian understanding of the significance of hieroglyphs themselves. Another thing that makes Crowley's Thoth deck stand out from other decks is the fact that the deck actually has three magus cards which represent the three forms of Thoth. The full title of this card is The Magus of Power. The path of the Magus card on the Tree of Life is the 12th which runs from Kether the 'Primum mobile' or first swirlings to Binah or 'understanding'. This again emphasises Thoths position as a conduit for the will of the creator to be conveyed to humanity. Crowleys three magus cards (see above) represent the three in one Thoth - Hermes - Mercury aspect of him as a deity.
The many facets of Thoth
Besides being the god who introduced writing to the world, Thoth has multiple other associations and is depicted in a variety of ways sometimes he is shown as an ibis other times, a baboon or as a dog headed ape wearing the combined lunar disc and crescent above his head.
Thoth's many roles include being the Egyptian God of the moon, calendars, chronology, the spoken word, writing, magick and knowledge and measurer of time (the latter being due to the fact that he rode with Ra in the solar boat). Thoth also goes by several aliases including Thot, Tehuti, and Djehuti. He is also known as Hermes Trismegistus or ‘Thrice Great’ the Trismegistus title seems to originate from the fact that the Egyptians knew him as Thoth, the Greeks called him Hermes and finally the Romans named him Mercury. The Thrice great association also links in to the fact that there are three pyramids on the Giza plateau and certain esoteric texts such as the Alchemy of the Soul refer to three temples of knowledge.
The Roman version of Thoth, Mercury, the god of thought was somewhat androgynous in nature. A symbol of magic and intelligence Mercury was associated with quick silver, the element mercury and the planet closest to the sun. Mercury is one of the three principals of alchemy.
The magickal association of Thoth extends into his title of Hermes Trismegistos, in fact the term Hermeticism (the magical, astrological and alchemical doctrines derived from Egyptian and Hebrew sources) originates from this association. As Hermes Trismegistos he was the legendary author of various treatises including the Emerald tablets and originator of the Hermetic axiom ‘As above so below’. Hermes Trismegistos was said to be the first alchemist.
Thoth and the Moon
Thoth's association with the moon originates from the myth that recounts how he enabled Nut to give birth to her five children (Isis, Osiris, Set, Horus the elder and Nephreys) by using his cunning to win a game of draughts with the moon. By winning a seventy second part of the moons light, he managed to create five extra days (the Epagomenal days), which allowed Nut to give birth to her five children without breaking Ra’s decree that her children could not be born on any existing calendar day. This myth more than any other is responsible for Thoth’s role as a lunar deity.
Further evidence of Thoth's role as a lunar deity can be seen through Thoth’s connection with the eye of Horus. In mythology the eyes of Horus were said to represent the sun and moon. The left eye, which was damaged in battle was said to explain why the moon was dimmer than the sun. The eye of Horus was also a powerful magical talisman and contained within it a complex system of measurement, which again links back to Thoth in his capacity of measurer of the earth
It was Thoth who restored the head of Isis another lunar deity and magician, when an enraged Horus had decapitated his mother. It was also Thoth who helped Isis when her beloved Osiris had been murdered by their jealous brother, Set, enabling her to resurrect her dismembered husband and impregnate herself, thus ensuring he had an heir. Osiris then became Lord of the underworld.
According to some versions of Egyptian mythology, after the final battle between Horus and Set over Osiris’s throne, it was Thoth who wrote to Osiris then Lord of the Underworld and asked him to intervene in the final judgment of the Ennead (the eight founding gods) and find in favour of Horus’ claim to the throne of Egypt.
The Mythology and many roles of Thoth
One of Thoth’s numerous roles was to record the outcome for the deceased person who had entered the Hall of Judgement. Anubis would check the weight of the dead persons heart on the scales against the weight of the feather of Maat to see if they balanced each other. And it was Thoth who declared the deceased to be ‘true of voice’ or vindicated if they did. As the god of magick, Thoth taught Isis the craft of magick to Isis enabling her to bring Osiris back to life and saving the life of Horus when a scorpion had stung him and he faced immanent death.
Thoth's female counterpart and according to mythology, his wife was Seshat, (although alternate myths state that Maat was Thoth's wife). Seshat, the female scribe, is depicted as wearing a panther skin dress and has a seven pointed star above her head. Like Thoth she was also associated with measurement – temple reliefs from the middle kingdom show her recording gains made from foreign battles. She is often referred to as ‘she who is foremost in the house of books’ and ‘lady of the builders’ which again suggests her role as consort to Thoth.
As Thoth the Atlantean, Thoth was said to be an Atlantean priest that left Atlantis prior to its destruction and moved to Khem (Egypt) where he founded a new civilisation based on the higher knowledge of the Atlantean society. As a priest who had knowledge of the gift of immortality he was said to have created the three pyramids at Giza to instruct initiates in the art of transforming the physical and spiritual body using the Merkabah, which is symbolised by the star tetrahedron we see Thoth holding in his palm in the picture above. According to Flower of Life teachings the Pharoah Akenaten and his wife Nefertitti where instrumental in trying to steer Egypt to unlock the key to mankinds existance found in the Egyptian mystery school network that Thoth himself had founded.
When you look at the variety and depth of the mythology concerning Thoth, it comes as no surprise that he should be credited with authorship of The Book of Thoth and the Emerald Tablets of Thoth (an artists impression of which can be seen on the left). Whether these legends are based on fact of myth has become a disputed subject over the last decade or so. Certainly, Pythagoras, himself a mystery school initiate, is said to have written that Thoth had taken him by the hand, led him under the great pyramid and taught him about the sacred nature of geometry and the true nature of reality. Certainly there are many people who claim to have had direct communication with Thoth as a god form, which leads us to the starting possibility that Thoth is more of an interdimensional being than a myth.
Other related resources
An Introduction to Hieroglyphs (ThothWeb)
The Egypt Gallery (ThothWeb)
'The Book of Thoth’ - A Treasury of Truth and Beauty
The THOTH Tarot Gallery
A fact Sheet on Aleister Crowley
Free Tarot Reading Using the Thoth Deck
Image of Thoth Copyright by Kristen A. Vasques - and used with FULL permission
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Published on: 2006-03-12 (83958 reads)[ Go Back ]