Gods and Goddesses


Role: God of wisdom, scribes, and writing

Appearance: An ibis-headed man, or a baboon. Often seen with the moon on his head in either of these forms.

Sacred animals: ibis, baboon

Center of worship: Hermopolis

There are many stories that tell of the birth of Thoth. One legend says that he was born out of the skull of Set. Another claims that he was born out of the heart of Re. Still another story says that Thoth created himself through the power of the spoken word: he said his own name, and he then came into existence.

Of all the gods and goddesses, it is Thoth who has the most roles. He was worshipped as the patron god of scribes, doctors, architects, and astronomers. As the lord of all math and science, he knows absolutely everything! He is the master of time and the inventor of the calendar. In a related astronomical role, he travels across the sky as the moon at night, determining when the days begin and end. Thoth invented writing so humans could pass along knowledge that they learned from him. Thoth is a messenger for the gods and sometimes settles disputes between them. He is renowned for his wisdom: even the other gods go to him for advice when they are in a pickle.

As the god of scribes, Thoth is also a divine record-keeper. Before the soul of a dead person could join Osiris in the afterlife, it had to pass a test called "The Weighing of the Heart" which is illustrated below. The ba of the dead person is watching the test, hoping to pass. Anubis, the god of mummification, stands under a scale and verifies that it's working correctly as Thoth waits to record the results. The heart of the dead person is weighed against "the feather of truth," a symbol of Ma'at (the goddess of truth, justice, and order). If the heart weighs less, the spirit is free to go on to meet Osiris in the afterlife. But if the heart is heavy with sin, it is thrown to Ammut, "the devourer of the dead," who gobbles it up, denying the spirit an afterlife and causing it to cease to exist.

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