June 14, 2021
Sobek The Egyptian Crocodile God Who Created the World and the Nile

Sobek: The Egyptian Crocodile God Who Created the World and the Nile

Sobek is the ancient Egyptian god of power, virility, fertility, and strength. He is the crocodile god who is represented as a crocodile in most of the time and sometimes a man with a crocodile head wearing Hemhem crown, which is set on ram horns and decorated with ostrich feathers with a sun disk and cobra symbol. Some myths depict sobek as the creator of the world who emerged from the waters of Nile. His ferocious achievements made him become a patron of the Egyptian army, a defender of the Pharaoh and the people. It is believed that his power is associated with the sun god Ra. Sobek is also known as Sebek, Sebek-Ra, Sobeq, Sochet, Sobki, or Sobk to the ancient Egyptians. The Greeks and Romans call him as Suchos and Suchus.

The Worship of Sobek in the Old Kingdom:

Sobek’s name is found in the Pyramid Texts which is the oldest corpus of ancient Egyptian religious texts. So we can say that sobek was worshiped in the old kingdom, but he gained popularity in the middle kingdom from 2055 to 1650 BCE. 12th Dynasty pharaoh  Amenemhat III took special interest in the Faiyum of Egypt, an area associated with Sobek to a great extent. The king took many initiatives in building projects to promote Sobek. During his reign, Sobek went through an important change. He was seen as the falcon-headed god of divine kingship, Horus. Though it was a fusion, but this brought Sobek closer to the kings of Egypt.

Was Sobek the Son of Set?

The Unas Pyramid Texts (Utterances 308 and 317) refers that Sobek is the son of Neith, an old deity of the ancient Egyptian pantheon. Some say, Neith gave birth to the child without any father. Others say, Set, the god of thunder and chaos is the father of Sobek. In other accounts, it is said that Sobek emerged out of the primeval waters of Nun. The partner of Sobek differs from place to place. Some of the goddesses most commonly paired with him are Hathor, Renenutet, Heqet, and Tawaret. Along with it, Sobek is sometimes said as the father of Khonsu, Khnum, or Horus. Sobek is also called as The “Lord of the Waters”, “The Rager” and “Lord of Faiyum”.

Sobek is considered the god of fertility:

Ancient Egyptians had some creation myths and they included Sobek in it. One of the myths states that while the crocodile god Sobek was creating the world, the Nile river was formed from his sweat. Sobek’s link with the Nile river also indicated that he was considered as the god of fertility. He was responsible for ensuring or assuring the fertility of the land. In another myth, it is said that Sobek created the world by on the bank of the waters of nun by laying eggs.

The Dark Side of Sobek:

In some myths, it is said that Sobek is had also a darker. He was violent in many aspects. When the god Set fought with Horus, Sobek was there for Set. When set was defeated, all his people those were with him turned themselves into crocodiles to escape from Horus. But ferocious Sobek was not feared by the ancient Egyptians. He was honored by them as he was considered as the patron of the army. Along with it, Sobek was designated as the symbol of the pharaoh’s power and he had the responsibility to protect the dead in the underworld.

Sovk (Suchus, Cronos, Satrune), 1823-25. Printed material. Brooklyn Museum
Source: Public domain

Sobek Provided Protection to the Egyptians Against the Dangers of the Nile:

The cult centers of Sobek were built in such places where there were crocodiles. And Sobek gave protection to the Egyptians against the dangers of the Nile. At Kom Ombo, the best-known cult center for Sobek was made and there was also a temple dedicated to him along with Horus. Though, some myths say they were enemies, yet some myths indicate that Sobek was a feature of Horus. The myth of their friendship came as Horus turned himself into a crocodile to retrieve the body parts of Osiris from the Nile. Another myth says that when Isis was giving birth to Horus, Sobek provided help to her.

Classical authors, for instance, Herodotus and Strabo said that the priests of Sobek used to respect or admire crocodiles as those were believed to be the earthly embodiment of the god. Priests would feed them and even sometimes they would be adorned with jewelry. When any crocodile died, they would be mummified with respect. Archaeologists have confirmed these facts. There is a small shrine for Hathor at the temple of Kom Ombo. And mummified crocodiles were found there. Now, those mummies are displayed in the crocodile museum outside the temple.

Some Facts about Sobek:

1. When ancient Egyptians forged the Nile river, a magical spell was used in order to respect Sobek.
2. Ancient Egyptians believed that Sobek could bring back sight and senses to the dead.
3. Some believed that the worship of crocodiles started from the fear of Sobek.
4. Sobek, Hathor, and Khonsu were called the Triad of Kom Ombo.

Featured image: Wikimedia Commons 

References:
#1 Translation of the Unas Pyramid Texts
#2 Ancient Egypt Online

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