The Crocodile God, Sobek
By Catherine C. Harris
The ancient goddess of war, Neith, was revered as the goddess of wisdom. At different periods she was identified with Athena, noted as the sister of Isis, and named the protector of Duamutef. Neith was the mother of Sobek, known as the crocodile god. Sobek was most popular in the city of Arsinoe. In fact, the Greeks renamed the city Crocodilopolis.
Ancient Egyptians would keep crocodiles in pools and temples. They ornamented the crocodiles with jewels in honor of their beloved god, Sobek. The people of ancient Egypt worshiped Sobek in order to appease him, the crocodiles, and to insure the fertility of their people and crops.
Sobek was called the Lord of Faiyum, and was considered the god who controlled the waters. The Nile was very important to the people of Egypt. Water was necessary for the survival of crops, the success of trade, and the livelihood of fishing.
These waters were filled with crocodile, so it was a matter of common sense to appease them through the worship of their leader, Sobek. According to legend, Sobek was a fourfold deity. He represented the four elemental gods, Ra of fire, Shu of air, Geb of earth, and Osiris of water. A crocodile, a man with the head of a crocodile, or a mummified crocodile are used as representations for Sobek. He is sometimes shown wearing a solar disk and horns like those of Amon-Ra. Throughout history, he has been known as Sebek, Sebek-Ra, Sobk, Suchos, Sobki, and Soknopais.
Sobek was revered for his ferocity and quick movement. It is said that he was the god who caught the four sons of Horus in a net, as they emerged from the waters in a lotus bloom. Set was a god of hostility and chaos. Some people held the belief that he was the epitome of evil. He was an adversary to Osiris and Horus. Sobek is considered to be a cohort of Horus. It is said that Horus took the form of a crocodile to retrieve the parts of Osiris body that Set had discarded in the waters of Egypt.
Set was later killed after an eighty-year war with Horus, in which Set tore out the left eye of Horus, and Horus tore out the testicles of Set. The Book of the Dead suggests that Sobeks closeness to Horus can be traced back to his participation in the birth of this god. Sobek was responsible for calling Isis and Nephthys to aid in the protection of the dead. He was the god from the Dark Water. It was believed, in some sects, that Sobek was the creator of the world.
These people believed that he arose from the Dark Water and put the world in order. Later, Sobek was incorporated into the cult of Amun. Amun was a chief god in the New Kingdom of Egypt. With his wife, Mut and his son, Khonsu, the scared family was formed with Amun as the head. They were known as the Theban Triad. Amun was also associated with the sun god, Re. He was venerated with as the god Amun-Re. During this time, Sobek was worshiped as the manifestation of Amun-Re.
Animals associated with the gods were revered in ancient Egypt. They were considered sacred and protected. They were given elaborate and costly burials when they died. Temples were built in their honor. Many mummified crocodiles have been found in the tombs of Egypt. The dead crocodiles were mummified with the use of natron or salt, then they were wrapped in strips of cloth, just as the humans of the time. Archeologist found all ages of crocodiles in the tombs.
In fact, many tombs contained not only young and adult crocodiles, but the eggs of crocodiles were found, as well. In some cases over 50 eggs were found together, with recognizable fetuses. This demonstrates the importance Egyptians placed on the crocodile god, Sobek and his sacred animals. In Egypt, Kom Ombo is 30 miles North of Aswan. This was once the sanctuary for a large number of crocodiles, and the center of worship for Sobek. Still standing, and open to the public for viewing, is the temple that Sobek shared with the war god, Horace.
This temple is most unique in that it consists of twin parts that are attached but completely separate. Each temple has its own entrance, halls, and chapels. Walls in one section of the temples are decorated with the images of surgical instruments. The images of scalpels, pincers, forceps, and other medical tools, shows that the ancient Egyptians were skilled medical professionals. The temples were built during the Ptolemaic period, between 300-380 BC. On your visit to Egypt, you will want to visit the temples at Kom Ombo. One chapel is open to visitors.
Youll see crocodile sarcophagi and mummies excavated form the nearby City of the Dead. Step back in time as you walk the path of those ancient Egyptians who worshiped and feared the crocodile in honor of the crocodile god, Sobek.
Last Updated: Aug 4th, 2011
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