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Thoth (Ramesseum, Luxor)
Thoth (Ramesseum, Luxor)
in hieroglyphs
G26 t

In Egyptian mythology, Thoth (also spelt Thot or Thout), pronounced "tot", is the Greek name given to Djehuty (also spelt Tahuti, Tehuti, Zehuti, Techu, Tetu) - the original pronunciation of his name is disputed, and may have been approximately Tee-HOW-ti -, who was originally the deification of the moon in the Ogdoad belief system. Initially, in that system, the moon had been seen to be the eye of Horus, the sky god, which had been semi-blinded (thus darker) in a fight against Set, the other eye being the sun. However, over time it began to be considered separately, becoming a lunar deity in its own right, and was said to have been another son of Ra. As the crescent moon strongly resembles the curved beak of the ibis, this separate deity was named Djehuty (i.e. Thoth), meaning ibis.

The Moon not only provides light at night, allowing the time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology/astronomy. The cycles of the moon also organized much of Egyptian society's civil, and religious, rituals, and events. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement, and regulation, of events, and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counsellor of Ra, and with Maàt (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky, Ra being a sun god.

Thoth became credited by the ancient Egyptians as the inventor of writing (see Kokabiel and the Book of Enoch), and was also considered to have been the scribe of the underworld, and the moon became occasionally considered a separate entity, now that Thoth had less association with it, and more with wisdom. For this reason Thoth was universally worshipped by Ancient Eygptian Scribes. Also, he became credited as the inventor of the 365-day (rather than 360-day) calendar, it being said that he had won the extra 5 days by with the moon, known as Iabet, in a game of dice, for 1/72nd of its light (5 = 360/72). When the Ennead and Ogdoad systems started to merge, one result was that, for a time, Horus was considered a sibling of Isis, Osiris, Set, and Nephthys, and so it was said that Hathor/Nuit had been cursed against having children during the (360) day year, but was able to have these five over the 5 extra days won by Thoth.

In art, Thoth was usually depicted with the head of an ibis, deriving from his name, and the curve of the ibis' beak, which resembles the crescent moon. Sometimes, he was depicted as a baboon holding up a crescent moon, as the baboon was seen as a nocturnal, and intelligent, creature. The association with baboons lead to him occasionally being said to be dating Astennu, one of the (male) baboons at the place of judgement in the underworld, and on other occasions, Astennu was said to be Thoth himself.

During the late period of Egyptian history a cult of Thoth gained prominence, due to its main centre, Khnum (Hermopolis Magna), also becoming the capital, and millions of dead ibis were mummified and buried in his honour. The rise of his cult also lead to his cult seeking to adjust mythology to give Thoth a greater role, including varying the Ogdoad cosmogony myth so that it is Thoth who gives birth to Ra/Atum/Nefertum/Khepri, as a result of laying, as an ibis, an egg containing him. Later it was said that this was done in the form of a goose - literally as a goose laying a golden egg.

Thoth was inserted in many tales as the wise counsel and persuader, and his association with learning, and measurement, lead him to be connected with Seshat, the earlier deification of wisdom, who became said to be his daughter, or variably his wife. Thoth's qualities also lead to him being identified by the Greeks with their closest matching god - Hermes, with whom Thoth was eventually combined, as Hermes Trismegistus, also leading to the Greeks naming Thoth's cult centre as Hermopolis, meaning city of Hermes.

There is also an Egyptian pharaoh of the Sixteenth dynasty of Egypt named Djehuty (Thoth) after him, and who reigned for three years.

Thoth in more recent times

One of the most popular and cited works on the Tarot was connected to this deity. Written by the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley, The Book of Thoth is a philosophical text on the usage of Tarot and, most notably, Crowley's own created Tarot Deck, the Thoth Tarot which he also referred to as The Book of Thoth, where the name is taken from a non-existent book in Egyptian mythology, believed to contain ancient knowledge originally brought to man by this deity. Aleister Crowley commissioned Lady Frieda Harris to assist him in painting the Thoth Deck. See Thoth Tarot.

Thoth is also a Carnival Krewe in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States, which parades on the Sunday before Mardi Gras. The Krewe features a float decorated with a large depiction of the ancient deity.

The online community environment oriented towards people interested in the arts and sciences, Thothica, derives its name from him.

Thoth in media

  • Using the name Mr. Ibis, Thoth works as a mortician in a small town along the Mississippi River in Neil Gaiman's American Gods.
  • The Book of THoTH The Book of THoTH Website dedicated to being the source of esoteric wisdom as well as modern learning.
  • The Ring of Thoth (aka: The Mummy) was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for The Cornhill Magazine published Jan 1890.


  • Bleeker, Claas Jouco. 1973. Hathor and Thoth: Two Key Figures of the Ancient Egyptian Religion. Studies in the History of Religions 26. Leiden: E. J. Brill
  • Boylan, Patrick. 1922. Thot, the Hermes of Egypt: A Study of Some Aspects of Theological Thought in Ancient Egypt. London: Oxford University Press. (Reprinted Chicago: Ares Publishers inc., 1979)
  • Černý, Jaroslav. 1948. "Thoth as Creator of Languages." Journal of Egyptian Archæology 34:121–122.
  • Fowden, Garth. 1986. The Egyptian Hermes: A Historical Approach to the Late Mind. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. (Reprinted Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993). ISBN 0691024987

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Gods associated with the Ogdoad: Amun | Amunet | Huh/Hauhet | Kuk/Kauket | Nu/Naunet | Ra | Hor/Horus | Hathor | Anupu/Anubis | Mut
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