Khnum, god of Egypt

Ancient Egyptian Gods and Goddesses for kids - Khnum

The Mythology & History of ancient Egypt surrounding Khnum, the ram-headed god of fertility, water and procreation

Khnum, god of Egypt
Discover the legends and myths and religious beliefs surrounding Khnum, the Egyptian creator ram-headed god of fertility, water and procreation, the patron of potters, the annual inundation of the Nile and of the Nile cataracts (white water rapids) He was also a protector of the Dead, and a protector of Ra on the solar barque. The ancient god Khnum, pronounced 'kan-noom', was usually depicted with a distinctive head of a ram with strange, horizontal, twisted horns. Once common in Egypt, this species of ram is now extinct. According to ancient Egyptian mythology Khnum fashioned human children from straw and clay upon a potter's wheel and gave him his soul (Ka).

In the ancient Egyptian language the words "soul" and "ram" sounded the same, explaining the significance of the ram as the symbol of Khnum.

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Who was Khnum?
Khnum was the Egyptian god of fertility, water and procreation. Egyptian gods and goddesses closely resembled the appearance of humans, but many of their gods, as with Khnum, were also perceived as 'human hybrids'  depicted with human bodies with the heads of animals. These symbols were used as a recognition aid and a device to visually convey the powers, identity and attributes of the god.

Facts about Khnum
The following facts and profile provides a fast overview of Khnum:

Khnum Profile & Fact File

Egyptian Name: Khnum also Khnemu, Khoum. Also see Heryshaf, ram-headed god

Role & Function: The function of Khnum is described as being a creator god of water, fertility and procreation. He was the patron deity of potters.

Status: Member of the Elephantine Triad and also a member of the Triad of Latopolis in Esna

Symbols: The potter's wheel, the ram, the Ankh, the 'Was Scepter'

Cult Centers: Elephantine, an island in the River Nile bordering northern Nubia. Another temple associated with Khnum was located at Esna

Titles: The "Divine Potter"

Name of Consort: Satet the war goddess of the flood or inundation of the Nile

Names of Children: Anuket, the goddess of the cataracts.

Name in Hieroglyphics: Translation of Hieroglyphics for Khnum: Stone jar for water and a ram with horizontal horns (representing the Ka (soul)

Khnum in Egyptian Mythology
Khnum, the Egyptian god of fertility, water and procreation, featured in the stories, myths and legends in Egyptian Mythology. Khnum was one of the old cosmic gods described as "the maker of things which are, the creator of things which shall be, the source of created things, the father of fathers, and the mother of mothers." It was Khnum who, according to one legend, fashioned the children of man upon a potter's wheel made from clay and straw.

The Consorts of Khnum
Khnum was worshipped in cities throughout Upper and Lower Egypt and their were many cults dedicated to this god. Ancient Egyptian Cities that achieved the status of a cult center became extremely rich and powerful and therefore there were several cult centers who featured Khnum with a number of different consorts who were goddesses favored in particular locations. He was associated with Heket a frog-headed fertility goddess but more often he was linked with Neith a war goddess, Menhit (a lion-headed war goddess) and Satet also another war goddess.

Khnum the Protector
Khnum had roles of a protector of the Dead, the protector of the source of the Nile, and a protector of Ra on the solar barque and his protective roles were possibly the reasons why he was associated with so many war goddesses.

Khnum Cult - The Elephantine Triad
Khnum was a member of the Elephantine Triad consisting of Khnum,
Satet the war goddess of the Nile inundation and their daughter Anuket, the goddess of the cataracts. For additional information refer to the Triads of Egyptian Gods.

Khnum Cult - The Triad of Latopolis
In another cult Khnum was the consort of Neith the goddess of war whose offspring was Heka the god of magic who together formed the the Triad of Latopolis.

Khnum, god of Fertility and Procreation
The fertility aspect of Khnum as the god of procreation (reproduction) is reflected in his role of moulding the infant and its ka within the womb, giving it the breath of life and then maintaining the health of the infant child after birth.

Khnum in Egyptian Mythology - The Soul
Khnum was therefore credited with providing man with the part of the soul called the 'Ka'. The ancient Egyptians called the soul by two names - the Ka and the Ba. The Ka was believed to be the life-force of a person. Khnum is mentioned in a version of the Book of the Dead called the Papyrus of Ani. In this famous papyrus Khnum is mentioned in Ani's address to his heart.

"Thou art my ka, the dweller in my body; the god Khnemu who knitteth and strengtheneth my limbs.
Mayest thou come forth into the place of happiness whither we go."

The deceased, in mentioning Khnemu's name (also spelled Khnum), appears to be invoking his aid at the judgment in the Hall of Truths as he was the fashioner of man and the being who was responsible in some respects for the manner of his life upon earth.

Symbols of Khnum - The Ram Headed God
The most striking symbol of Khnum is the ram. He is depicted in ancient Egyptian Art as a ram-headed god with green skin. Green colored skin was the color of vegetation and symbolized new life, rebirth and regeneration. Khnum is credited with giving man his soul (Ka) and in the language of the ancient Egyptians the words "soul" and "ram" sounded the same, which explains the significance of the ram as the symbol of Khnum. The peculiar, twisted horizontal horns, with spiralling horns coming out of the sides of the skull, as depicted on Khnum are like nothing we would now associate with a ram. The Latin name of the type of ram depicted is the 'Ovis longipes palaeo-aegyptiacus'. It is now extinct. But it was a type of barbary sheep that was found in the ancient Southern Egypt and Nubia. This species of ram, a domesticated sheep, was depicted on the relief's of the early tombs of Pharaohs.

The Latopolis Triad at Esna
Esna was the cult center of the Triad of Latopolis consisting of Khnum, Neith and their son Heka where a great temple of was dedicated to the worship of these gods. Heka was the patron of magic and therefore also of medicine and Neith was a warrior goddess. Another lion-headed goddess called Menhit was also associated with the triad as the second wife of Khnum. 

The Elephantine Triad & Elephantine Island
Elephantine is situated at Aswan standing at the border between Egypt and Nubia and was the cult center for the three gods Khnum, Satet the war goddess of the flood or inundation and their daughter Anuket, the goddess of the cataracts. Elephantine was the capital of the state and for many years was the outer post of the Ancient Egyptian empire, a military post guarding the southern frontier of Egypt. A great great fortification was built on the island which served as defensive role for the border of Egypt but also as a place for commerce and trade with the Nubians, which might account for the name 'Elephantine' as there was a brisk trade in ivory at the island. The Egyptian Nile god, Hapi was also worshipped at Elephantine as he was believed to bring the silt to the banks of the Nile. Khnum was believed to guard and control the waters of the Nile from caves beneath Elephantine Island. Important Nilometers were located on the Elephantine Island to predict the volume and measure the inundation of the Nile. A Nilometer was associated with the Temple of Satis, with a stone staircase that descends down the corridor. There are records of an Egyptian temple dedicated to Khnum on the Elephantine island as early as the third Dynasty of Egypt in the period of the Old Kingdom (2686 BC - 2181 BC). The Khnum temple on the island was completely rebuilt in the Late Period (525 BC - 332 BC), during the thirtieth dynasty of Egypt, just before the foreign rule of the Romans.

Facts about Khnum in Egyptian Mythology
Discover interesting information and research facts about Khnum, the Egyptian god of fertility, water and procreation. The facts about Khnum provides a list detailing fascinating additional info to increase your knowledge about Khnum in Egyptian Mythology.

History, Mythology and Facts about Khnum

Fact 1: Ancient Egyptians wore clothes made of linen. Clothes made of wool were only worn by royalty and priests.

Fact 2: As a creator god he was strongly connected with the fertile soil of Egypt.

Fact 3: Khnum helped the Sun God Ra travel through the Underworld each night on the Solar Barque, which he both defended and created.

Fact 4: At the Great Temple of Luxor, Khnum was shown sculpting the body and ka of the pharaoh.

Fact 5: The name of the builder of the great pyramid was Khufu meaning 'Protected by Khnum'

Fact 6: His name is represented in hieroglyphics by a jar of water and a ram

Fact 7: Khnum was referred to as the 'Lord of the Cataract' a god of the yearly inundation and the fertile black soil that came with the flood.

Fact 8: Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmose III built large new temples to Khnum on Elephantine Island

Fact 9: The three gods of the Elephantine Triad led by Khnum were all closely linked with the Nile:

Khnum as guardian of the Nile
Satet as the goddess of the annual inundation
Anuket as goddess of the cataracts

Fact 10: The Nile god Hapi was believed to bring the silt to the banks of the Nile, making farming possible in the middle of the desert. It was believed that Khnum and the other two gods of the Elephantine Triad decided how much of Hapi's silt would be delivered during each year's flood.

Khnum

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