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Khnum – The Sculptor Who Gives Life; Lord of Destiny; Father of Fathers, Mother of Mothers; Lord of the Cool Water

Khnum presides over the Nile cataracts. It was at his command that the river rose dur ing the annual inundation. When the correct time for the Nile floods arrived, Khnum opened the flood gates and released the waters.

Khnum is a particularly ancient deity, as is his original consort, Frog Lady Heket. Their myths explain that they were here from the beginning: they precede creation; they transcend time. In parts of southern Egypt, Khnum was believed to be the Supreme Creator who first fashioned humans from Nile River clay on his potter’s wheel, while Heket assisted with the breath of life.

Khnum fashions the bodies of children on his potter’s wheel and places them into their mother’s womb. In one Egyptian creation legend, Khnum creates all the deities of Egypt in this fashion. The spirit of pottery, Khnum shaped the Earth and all its inhabitants out of clay.

Khnum is the Lord of barley and wheat, flowers, fruit, birds, fish and animals. In one creation legend, Khnum wearies of the labors of creating and maintaining all life. Eventually he created a device to relieve him of his burden: by placing a replica of his potter’s wheel into the womb of female creatures, he was able to transmit his creative power.

Heket and Khnum were well known throughout Egypt. At some point, Khnum acquired another family as well, a Nubian wife (Anuket) and their daughter (Satis). The exact relationship between the two female deities is unclear; variations upon this legend abound. Arguments are also made for Satis as wife and Anuket the daughter. A third theory suggests the goddesses are sisters. Jewish angelology identifies Khnum with the angel Anmael.






Khnum manifests as a ram, (the literal meaning of his name), or as a man with a ram’s head. A two thousand year old inscription describes Khnum sitting upon his throne at Elephantine Island with his sandals resting on the Nile and his crown touching the sky.


Water, Earth


Khnum’s main sanctuary was on Elephantine Island. An inscription from Pharaoh Zoser states that Elephantine belongs to Khnum forever. One tenth of Upper Egypt’s production was to be offered to Khnum at his temple. Zoser promised that Khnum’s temple, named Joy of Life, would forever be kept in perfect repair. The ruins may be visited today. Another temple dedicated to Khnum in Esna, formerly Latopolis, south of Luxor, may also be visited.


Khnum traditionally accepts offerings of fish. His devotees refrained from using any aspect of a sheep or lamb, whether for food, leather, wool or otherwise.



Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.


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