Sobek is the Ancient Egyptian crocodile God.
He has an intimidating appearance – the head of a callous crocodile and the strong body
of a man. His head brandishes the custom double crown of Amun; an embellished Symbol of divine
authority, featuring the horns of a ram, wrapped by two Uraeus cobra. This headdress features
the red solar disk flanked by tall illustrious plumes. A crown like this is reserved for
only the most significant characters in Egypt. In his fully zoomorphic form, he is simply
a giant powerful crocodile, sometimes adorned with golden accessories. Sobek is the son of Neith, the prime creator,
a goddess of war; Architect of the universe and all gods. She was the mother of crocodiles
and a personification of primeval waters. In Egyptian mythology, these first waters
of creation were seen as the origin of life. Sobek emerged from the chaotic rapids to assume
his position as the reptile god. He was the one who rose out of the primordial waters. In most myths, he remains childless. It’s
uncommon for such a prominent god to have no children. This is really unusual, especially
considering who Sobek was. How could an Egyptian goddesses look at this handsome devils face
and not be keen some Sobek kids. No kids, but he wasn’t necessarily single. One of his consorts was Renenutet, Goddess
of the harvest. Sobek really wanted children, but she never seemed to be interested. Renenutet
was always reminding him about how she is such a busy lady these days and there’s
no way she had any time for children. Oh no.. Well, not Sobek’s apparently. Several myths
have his other consort as Hathor. She was the one last hope for Sobek’s genetic legacy. No luck with her either. No kids. Hathor by the way, is a significant goddess of fertility.
Yes, Married to a Goddess of fertility (The Goddess of Fertility) and still no children.
Poor Sobek. If all of this isn’t bad enough, his name
is derived from an Egyptian word which means to impregnate. He was even called Lord of
semen in a few spells. I’m not finished though. They even named sobek “The one who
takes women from their husbands whenever he wishes according to his desire”. Apparently, Sobek was shooting blanks. That
or he was taking these women from their husbands to get stuck on first base. Why there were
never any little Sobek’s running around the banks of the nile, it truly is a mystery. People often wonder what exactly
is Sobek the god of? Like many Egyptian gods, he didn’t really have a specific role per
say. On a super basic level, he was often closely associated with the colour green.
When he wasn’t being called the Raging one, The Great Male Being or Lord of Semen, he
went by “green of plume”. Some also saw him as god and protector of
the nile. In a lot of myths, he alone created the nile by unleashing godly sized buckets
of his sweat onto the dry desert. The river began to run and lush green foliage sprouted
along the nile. Sobek single handedly saturated the prosperous nile with his perspiring pores,
bringing new life to Egypt. This particular myth and the aquatic qualities
of crocodiles could be why he was accepted as the god of water. At some points in Egypt, he even became a
solar deity of sorts. Water god and Sun god. Hold on, don’t these two elements conflict
as opposites in a way? And wasn’t Ra the falcon already the god of
the Sun. Yea, this all true. Fortunately, Egyptians came up with a truly genius fix
for this dichotomy. If Ra the Falcon is already the sun god and Sobek the crocodile is already
the water god… Just put the sun gods head on the water gods body. Boom, Sobek-Ra. The
sun god and the water god combined. Too easy. Greeks and Egyptians often created these funny
hybrid gods. For instance, Sobek also did a stint as Sobek-Horus, another falcon headed
god. Sometimes he was even depicted with the body of a crocodile and the head of a man. Whilst we’re on the topic of strange duality,
we have to talk about something. Egyptians and Crocodiles. There
are some weird things about this duo that very few people ever discuss. In some parts of Egypt, many crocodiles were worshipped like gods because of Sobek. We all kinda knew that, but here’s where things get confusing.
Whilst in some parts of Egypt crocodiles were gods, In other parts of egypt, crocodiles
were categorically hated and hunted for sport. You kill a crocodile in one area and you’re
celebrated. You kill a crocodile in another and you become the hunted. How can you have
some parts of Egypt that absolutely detest crocodiles with every fiber of their being
and other parts who worship them as divine beings. To solve this mystery, we’ll need
to visit a famous Anceint city. Undeniably, the most appropriately named city in history. Crocodilopolis. You probably know from its title what Crocodilopolis
is all about. It’s no mistake a city named Crocodilopolis worshipped a crocodile god.
In greek and later latin, Crocodilopolis translates to Crocodile City and here, Sobek was worshipped
religiously. Everyone wore crocodile amulets and jewelry. Crocodile styled rings were prized
possessions. A gold signet ring with a crocodile theme commanded the highest level of respect.
Little crocodile statues and trinkets were common household items collected for good
luck. Crocodopolis temples contained gigantic statues to honor their cold blooded god. In
this city, even Greeks and Romans paid their respects to Sobek through worship and offerings
at his temples. Crocodilopolis is one of the major cities
of the Egyptian Faiyum, an area of the ancient Shedet. No people worshiped Sobek like the
people of Shedet. The Faiyum people even hand raised special
crocodiles on religious grounds. These rare crocodiles would grow into what Egyptians
perceived as living incarnations of Sobek himself. They swam in man made pools and freely
roamed the neighbouring waters. This city was infested by crocodiles for obvious
reasons. Whist there were many, one particular crocodile stood out. The most sacred, biggest
prehistoric beast in the city. This one of a kind crocodile was named “Son of Soukhos”. He was one of one, and was often covered ingolden jewelry and semi-precious gemstones.
Whilst intimidatingly imposing, this crocodile was raised from birth to be completely tame.
He was still wild, but he had a friendly side apparently. Really, he may have been the most
relaxed, chilled out crocodile in history. You could probably even climb into his gigantic
toothy mouth and walk away with all of your limbs still attached. The biggest factor in the placidity and friendly
demeanour of this guy, was the fact that his voracious hunger was always completely satiated.
He never experienced hunger, but not in the way you might be thinking. Our Son of Soukhos
enjoyed a frequent diet of bread, meat and honey with milk. Every time a new guest arrived to his temple
with a food offering, the tiny priests would have to chase the gigantic crocodile around
the lake. Priests were obligated to feed him the offerings they were given by the temples
visitors. To not feed him a new offering would be disrespectful to Sobek himself. The Son
of Souhkos was a slippery reptile and it wasn’t easy to catch him. He was always running away
from the little priests because he knew what would happen when they caught him. The only
reason these priests were ever successful in catching our Son of Souhkos, was because
of how huge, slow and drunk he was. Drunk? When they eventually caught him, they opened
his mouth and feed him offerings of sweet cakes and wine. You can see why he was such
a massive beast. Here’s where things get a little dodgy for our Son of Soukhos. Remember,
we’re in Crocodilopolis. There are frequent visitors who for the most part, all brought
offerings for our giant croc. Assuredly, not an offering went to waste and our holy crocodile
was very, very well fed, albeit with a diet full of sweet treats and alcohol. He was exceptionally well looked after, but it
sounds like the Egyptian priests didn’t acknowledge feeding a crocodile confectionery
carbohydrates and liquor all day wasn’t great for its longevity, or clearly it’s
waistline. The son of Soukhos would eventually be replaced
by a new crocodile. This only happened once he died though. As he was seen as the son
of Sobek himself, he received a royal burial when his time came. So, it was time for the
special ceremony once the Son of Soukhos inevitably died of a heart attack. This included a regal
mummification and Baby crocodiles were placed in his mouth. Crocodiles transport their young
by carrying them in their mouths in this way. They are one of the few reptiles that actively
care for their young. Egyptians saw this nurturing side of crocodiles. The savagery of these
dinosaur like creatures was certain, but so was how they cared for their young. Perhaps
if crocodiles cared so much for their offspring, Sobek would also care for the wellbeing of
Egypt so to speak. Should there be an animal on your side for protection,
it best be powerful in some way. This is the kind of perception duality sobek influenced.
A supremely strong and fearsome deity with the ability to do massive damage or to lovingly
look after those close to him. A respectable juxtaposition. He was mainly worshipped in areas of Egypt
where crocodiles were abundant and posed a serious threat. Anywhere with open waters
that a predatory crocodile may inhabit was a cause for concern. Fear and respect came
hand in hand with Sobek and the people of the Faiyum had a particularly strong connection
to him. If you see crocodiles all day, it’s only fitting your local hero aligns with this. To further this point of crocodile admiration,
would you believe me if I told you that Sobek was seen a god that created order? I know
a vicious unpredictable crocodile isn’t the most likely candidate for such a claim.
Why would an aggressive crocodile god be seen to create order? Chaos and unpredictability
is the impression a croc leaves for most, but a fantastic myth in the coffin texts reveals
the story of Sobek restoring order to Egypt. Her aggressive expression is uncharacteristic,
making it exceptionally frightening. Very seldom had anyone ever seen her in such a
state. No one knew the source of this explosive anger, just that her Son Horus was the perpetrator
and she wanted to teach him a lesson. Isis casts a viscous magic spell to Pin Horus down
and remove both of his hands. In her rage, she sends them to the depths of the nile river.
They slowly sank to the bottom, making them almost impossible to retrieve. Horus is now
handless. He looks defeated, but there’s a part of him that is relieved. Whilst in
this moment he felt like a hostage to the magic of ISIS, he was glad only his hands
were removed and not his head. These actions by Isis would not go unanswered though. Someone
was watching. Ra was observing all of this from the skies
above as falcon. He took some time to think about the situation before he came to a decision.
Ra was fair and believed in order over chaos. Naturally, he considered Isis’ actions unjust.
He thought it was only reasonable that his friend and fellow falcon god Horus got his
hands back. Ra had an issue though. Whilst he was proficient
around water, the hands were now far too deep in the river for him to retrieve them. He
knew there was only one other being who could access the depths of the nile. Sobek. Most gods wanted as little as possible to
do with Sobek. Unless he was crafting something or you caught him on a good day, he had grisly
demeanour and a short fuse. Sobek did have a few things going for him though. He was
surprisingly creative, an amazing swimmer and clearly very Handsome. Reluctantly, on
this occasion, Ra had no choice. He needed Sobek. He was however, very aware of the crocodile
gods difficult disposition. Sobek wasn’t the charitable type and it was unlikely he’d
do a favour for nothing. Knowing this, Ra creates something to incentivise him. This
would be a bribe he was positive Sobek could not refuse. Grudgingly it was time for Ra
to visit the nile. After a few close calls with the crocodiles
of the Nile, Ra enters Sobeks palace. The entire temple was flooded. Of course it was flooded. He is standing in tepid knee high water and waits
for Sobek to surface. It’s
dark inside, softly illuminated by Ra’s red hot solar disk. Every little sound reverberates
off the dark granite walls. Ra begins to feel the water beneath him moving. Sobek swiftly
surfaces. Ra is caught completely off guard and goes
into greeting autopilot. He asks Sobek how’s your day been, how’s the wife, how’s the
kids… Sobek still had water in his ears and didn’t catch any of that, fortunately. Without hesitation, he bluntly asks Ra What do you want. Ra breathes a massive sigh of relief and begins
explaining the predicament to Sobek, knowing that he’d probably have to bargain for his
help. He thought he’d try simply asking for the favour, hoping Sobek would understand.
Ra was noble and prefered not resort to bribes. Who knows, Sobek could have been in a good
mood, so he asks. Nope, bad mood as usual. Sobek abruptly refuses with a ferocious snap.
He’s as grumpy as ever and it’s clear he isn’t enjoying Ra’s honorable company. It was time for plan B: Ra’s trump card.
Ra cautiously stretches out his closed hand towards Sobek, watching the crocodile
God intently. He reluctantly opens his clenched fist, presenting Sobek with the irresistible
bribe. It’s a stunning gold signet ring, no crocodilian god could refuse. The jaws of Sobek slowly separate, revealing
his terrifying teeth. His pining eyes reflect the glistening object before him. Sobek looks
possessed and Ra fears what the cold blooded god is about to do. Fortunately, Sobek was
simply overcome with uncontrollable desire for the golden trinket and he enthusiastically
agrees to the quest. Ra begins telling Sobek that the hands are now located at the bottom
of the river but before he could finish, Sobek was gone. As soon as Sobek hits the water, an uneasy
feeling washes over him. He had barely listened to Ra’s words
the moment he was presented with the special ring. His reptilian brain completely took
over. He was overwhelmed by its marvel and forgot about what was living at the bottom
of the nile. Since the inception of the niles creation, he had not visited its depths for
this wretched reason. As he swam deeper, he began to remember why
he had only been down there once. One time in all these years. He had a strong feeling
the reality of this dreaded memory would soon be confirmed. He pauses momentarily and considers
turning back. After a moment to gather his thoughts, he continues swimming with the motivation
of Ra’s beautiful bribe still fresh in his mind. He approaches the bottom of the nile and lays
eyes on the hands. They rest in complete darkness under an intentionally piled prison of rocks.
The inside of this cavernous dwelling would have been invisible to most, but Sobeks eyes
were well equipped The hands are right there. He could
almost reach out and touch them. They are at the very bottom of the river as expected,
but Sobek can’t retrieve them. Even though they are right there in front of him, there
is a formidable enemy preventing him from getting Ra’s ring. A preventative force
Sobek hates with all of his godly will. The green is sucked out of Sobek’s scaly
skin the moment he clearly sees what is guarding the hands. “They” were waiting at the
bottom of the nile for him. The reason Sobek couldn’t get the hands of Horus was because
they had taken the hands for themselves. They, were sobek’s nemesis, the fish of Chaos. These
aren’t just any fish though. They are the fastest in the nile. As quick as lightning
and intrepid daredevils. The one and only time he dared swim to the depths of the nile,
the fish trolled Sobek relentlessly. This miserable memory flashes through his mind.
He remembers how uncontrollably furious they had made him and the aftermath of frustrated
destruction he caused to Egypt afterwards. The two fish simply loved creating chaos.
They were the reason why he hadn’t been this deep in a very long time. The flashback to his first encounter with
the fish is overwritten by the glow of the glorious gold ring. He was unwaveringly determined
to get that ring, but first, he needed those damn hands. The fish could now see Sobek,
so they enthusiastically exit the cave holding the hands in their fins. He begins chase.
When it came to swimming, Sobek was always the most skilled in the Nile River Valley,
but not in the company of these two fish. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t catch
them. Surprisingly, they’re overjoyed to see Sobek again. They loved nothing more than
to torment the crocodile god. The fish were very aware that he never had a chance of outpacing
them. The chaos of Sobeks frustrations delighted the daring duo. The chase continues until Sobek is moments
away from conceding defeat and almost snaps. He is at the end of his fuse now and is about
to implode when he experiences a brilliant moment of inspiration. Instead of an implosion,
a light bulb goes off in his head. His visions of chaos were replaced with the clarity of
creativity. The golden finish line made him see clearly. For now, he would give up chase
and return to the surface. As night falls the fish to go to sleep. He
swims back down deep into the river and diligently executes his plan. He makes sure not to get
close enough to wake the sleeping fish. He didn’t want to alert them yet. Sobek would now wait for the first warm light
of the aten to shine over the nile. Sobek patiently
waits and as soon as Khepri thrusts the first sun into the new sky, His eyes close to a squint and his sight narrows with tunnel vision. He puts
his entire godly focus and will on the fish, and thrusts himself into their rocky home.
They hadn’t seen him yet, but they soon would. Sobek was waiting for them
this time. They instantly wake up, quickly grab the hands and the chase begins the chase once more.
He swims as fast as he can. The fish can not believe their luck. First they both get hands
of a god. Now, they get two days of terrific back-to-back Sobek trolling. The pair is elated
and continues to tease him. Whilst he gets closer than before, Sobek still can’t catch
them. They mercilessly mock him but Sobek is unusually calm. Normally he would have
smoke coming out of his ears at this point and would be absolutely furious. Everything
was going to plan though. The fish didn’t know it, but this time things were different.
Sobek remains cool and continues his seemingly futile chase, until everything suddenly comes
to a halt. The fish stop dead in their tracks. It was as if the nile itself had abruptly
stopped flowing. Sobeks plan had worked. The night before, Sobek’s creativity lead
to a new invention. He couldn’t beat them with speed, so he’d beat them with creativity. His solution,
was a special fish trap. He invented the world’s first fishing net and had sprawled it across
the bottom of the river. This genius contraption had done its job perfectly. The audacious
Fish of Chaos had no idea what was coming. Sobek’s creativity had triumphed over the chaotic nature of the niles fish. Our story ends with Sobek retrieving the hands
from the net and returning them to Ra. He exchanges the hands for his gleaming gift.
Ra looks down at the detached hands and then looks up at Sobek who is now wearing the ring.
Ra’s expression morphs from relief, to confusion to total shock. He was staring straight at
Sobek and couldn’t believe what he was seeing. For the first time in history in an unprecedented
event, Sobek smiles. He was so happy, little crocodile tears had filed his eyes.
Ra couldn’t help himself and mirrored the joyous expression. He knew he should never
do this, but reciprocating, he smiled at the crocodile. After this, Ra went to visit his buddy Horus
and returned the hands. Horus was happy. He had his hands back. Ra was satisfied knowing
that order had been restored and chaos defeated. Isis felt Horus had learned his lesson. The invaluable fishing net had even been invented for Egypt. Wait, we’re forgetting something aren’t
we. You might be wondering what happened to those fish. I’ll let Sobek Explain Egyptians regarded many fish as creatures
of chaos; animals that emerged from the disorder of the first primordial waters. As a god who
frequently caught and ate fish, Sobek in a way was doing his part to establish order.
This was one of the reasons fishermen and the people of the nile worshipped Sobek. In
a way, he was the patron god of the fisherman. All of the marshes from the Nile River Valley,
to the edge of the desert were lord Sobek’s domain. He watched over these lands, as from
his skin, they were his creation. The Nile is arguably the very reason the Egyptian
civilization even existed. They had great respect for this invaluable body of water.
All Egyptians relied upon it in some way, so many also carried a certain level of respect
for its creator Sobek. If a being could create such a valuable resource for Egypt, surely
he was an ally. This is where the other side of the Sobek
coin comes into play. A lot of Egyptians had an incredibly hard time worshipping a god
in the form of a crocodile; a scaled, savage, blood thirsty predator. Let’s keep it real you’d probably have a
hard time worshipping such a ghastly creature too. To me, these prehistoric monsters look
like they were plucked out of the bloody dinosaur age. The scales, their teeth, their dark beady
eyes and their feet. Their feet! Not alone here, large groups of Egyptians shared this
sentiment. When the canals and rivers dried up, crocodiles would go on a slaughterous
rampage. They’d freely roam the fields and eat whatever, or whoever would be unlucky
enough to get in the way of their destructive path. Many pets, friends and family members
became the Snacks of Sobek. Worshipping what such a deity represents is a tough sell. The
reality was, a lot of people hated crocodiles and weren’t on board with any Sobek worship
whatsoever. Countless crocodiles were diligently destroyed. Here’s something that made it even worse
for Sobek. He was associated with arguably the most evil Ancient Egyptian god Seth. Being
associated with Seth was virtually a guarantee that most Egyptians wouldn’t be very big
fans. Any god that would kill and dismember Osiris was an enemy. Sobeks popularity did continue to grow however.
Crocidilopolis steadily expanded, reaching nearly 30,000 inhabitants at its peak. Sobeks
reputation hit a whole new level when several notable Pharaohs began to push a strong pro
Sobek campaign. They were named in honor of the contentious god and sent ample funding
to his temples. The later and destructive Greek Ptolemies built prominent Sobek temples.
Apparently, the Ptolemy temples had a creepy vibe. Something in them just felt off. We’ll
talk about these nasty Ptolemies another time though. Anyway, In case you’re curious,
here’s some Egyptian Royalty linked to Sobek. There’s of course Sobekneferu. Her name
meant something like ‘the beauty of Sobek’ and there was Sobekhotep “Sobek is pleased”
or “Sobek is happy”. When a Pharaoh is named after a god, they
commanded the associated divine being to be venerated. When a pharaoh commands, you obey.
As pharaohs propelled Sobek into popularity he became more palatable. He rubbed shoulders
with other beloved deities that were much more widely worshipped. Being linked with
gods such as Horus and Ra was a great look for improving public perception. With this being said, it’s easy to see why
an erratic, terrifying creature like a crocodile would be this divisive. From almost the inception of Ancient Egypts
myths, Sobek was put on a pedestal with the mighty gods. Whilst there were many crocodile
gods worshiped in Egypt, almost all of them were derivative. When it came to powerful
polarizing crocodile gods, there was truly only one. Sobek, the creator of the nile.
The crocodile god. If you haven’t already definitely click
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