Two of the most important gods in the Egyptian pantheon are Ra and Thoth, and people often ask about the curse Ra placed on Thoth. In this article we are going to look at the question: why did Ra curse Thoth?
Ra cursed Thoth because Thoth helped Nut have children. After Ra’s love for Nut went unreturned, because she was in love with Geb the earth god, Ra cursed her so she could not give birth on any day of the year. Nut went to Thoth for help, who created an extra five days in the year, allowing Nut to give birth.
The Background of Ra, Nut, and Geb
Nut is the daughter of Shu and Tefnut, which makes her the granddaughter of Ra. Her husband Geb is also her brother. She is depicted in a pure human form, and occasionally as a cow. Geb is the god of the earth, and the father of snakes. Despite being married to Ra, Nut was in love with Geb.
The Game of Senet with Khonsu
In order for Thoth to add the five days to the year he needed to win in a game of Senet ( a form of dice) again the moon god Khonsu, who possessed tremendous light (almost as much as Ra). If Thoth won he would add the five days, but if he lost, he would be killed. Each time Thoth won, he received more moonlight from Khonsu, and he used that moonlight to create the five extra days.
Why Thoth Helped Nut
It is unclear what Thoth’s motives were in helping Nut. Some speculate that he was also in love with Nut. After she was given the five extra days, Nut went on to have five more children with Geb. These were Osiris, Horus, Set, Isis, and Nephthys. Certainly it was a risky move for Thoth, as it damaged his important relationship with Ra. The relationship between Ra and Thoth is long and complicated, involving many myths.
Thoth Laid an Egg From Which Ra Was Born
There are many versions of how both Thoth and Ra came into existence, some claiming that they spoke themselves into existence. In some versions, particularly in Hermopolis where Thoth’s support was strongest, it was believed that Thoth took on the form of an ibis bird (one of his sacred animals), and laid an egg that grew into Ra.
Ra is the God of Creation
The ancient Egyptians considered Ra to be the god of the sun and creation. He was the most important god in Egypt. He has the head of a falcon, and the body of a man. He is often depicted with a sun disk above his head, and also as a scarab beetle. The Egyptians believed that Ra created the sun and the moon as two eyes to watch over the world.
Ra was known in Upper Egypt as Re, and in Lower Egypt as Amun. When the two regions came together, they changed the name to Amun-Re. Over thousands of years the name morphed in Ra. That is why Ra is sometimes also spelled Re.
Thoth was the “Voice of Ra”
Thoth was considered the scribe and councillor Ra, and even called the “Voice of Ra”. Thoth maintained the library of the gods with his wife Seshat. He was the scribe and acted as mediator between Ra and the mortals. He counselled on Ra on important matters, and was a representative for Ra, particularly in the underworld.
When acting as the voice of Ra, Thoth carried the “Eye of Ra”, a symbol of the power of the sun. The symbol is an extension of Ra’s powers, and on occasion can even become a goddess in its own right, taking the form of several deities, such as Hathor, Sekhmet, or Bastet. The symbol has a violent aspect which defends Ra against those who threaten his rule. Eventually they manage to retrieve her, returning the water to Egypt and ending the drought, much to the rejoice of the people.
In one myth, the eye of Ra takes on the form of Tefnut, the goddess of moisture. After having a falling out with her father Ra, she leaves Egypt, taking all the water and moisture with her. Soon the land dries up and becomes infertile. As the people suffer, Ra sends Thoth and Shu go to get her back.
Thoth Stood Next to Ra on His Nightly Voyages Across the Sky
Each day Ra would pass through the sky. In the morning Nut gave birth to the sun, and every evening swallow it again. Thoth and Ma’at would accompany him each day on his sun barge.
As the god of calendars, mathematics, this gave him an interesting perspective. He was known as “the One who Made Calculations Concerning the Heavens, the Stars and the Earth”, as well as ““the one who Measured out the Heavens and Planned the Earth”.
Ra Gave Thoth the Underworld to Rule
Acting as a representative of the sun god, Thoth was assigned his role in the underworld. Thoth recorded the verdict of the deceased in the hall of Ma’at. He was known as “He who balances”, and “God of the equilibrium”. Acting on behalf of Ra, Thoth kept records of the transgressions of those who ended up in the underworld, and decreed punishments.
Symbolism of the Sun and the Moon in Egyptian Mythology
When you think about it Ra being the god of the sun, and Thoth being the god of the moon, makes them opposites. To the Egyptians, Ra represented life, warmth, and growth. The sun is essential to life, and infuses the world with energy. The moon in contrast, is a feminine symbol, and represents the rhythm of time, immortality and eternity. It is easy to understand why Ra and Thoth’s lives are so interwoven and involved with each other.
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