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The Egyptian God Sobek

By Edward Butler

(Sebek, Souchos) The most popular of a number of Egyptian deities depicted in crocodilian or semi-crocodilian form, Sobek embodies the creative potency of the Nile—vested especially in the Fayyum lake, the center of Sobek’s veneration—and, by extension, the primordial creative power of the cosmos itself, in perhaps its most intense form. Sobek is depicted either as a crocodile or as a crocodile-headed man, often wearing a crown with solar disk and plumes. His closest tie is with Neith, who is identified as his mother in PT utterances 308 and 317. A father is named for Sobek about whom nothing is known but his name: Senuy (in Greek Psosnaus), which literally means ‘the two brothers’. Since Sobek was worshiped all over Egypt (sometimes through the intermediary of living sacred crocodiles), he is associated with many consorts and offspring in a purely cultic context. The Pyramid Texts includes a spell identifying the deceased king with Sobek (PT utterance 317). Here Sobek is called, “green of plume, watchful of face, raised of brow, the raging one who came forth from the shank and tail of the Great One who is in the sunshine,” this “Great One” being feminine and hence probably referring to Neith. The “green plume” refers to the vegetation of the marshes. Greenness is a frequent motif in relation to Sobek, linking the greenish hide of the crocodile to the idiomatic sense of ‘green’ (wadj) in Egyptian as ‘healthy’ or vigorous: “I make green the herbage which is on the banks of the horizon, that I may bring greenness to the Eye of the Great One [fem.] who dwells in the field,” (PT utterance 317). Sobek also embodies sexual potency: “I am the lord of semen who takes women from their husbands whenever he wishes,” (ibid.); in the hymns from Sumenu Sobek is said to produce all living seed (pStrassburg 7, 5).

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