by Marianne Dixon
Thoth is the name given by the Greeks to the Egyptian god Djeheuty. Thoth was the god of wisdom, inventor of writing, patron of scribes and the divine mediator. He is most often represented as a man with the head of an ibis, holding a scribal palette and reed pen. He could also be shown completely as an ibis or a baboon.
As with most Egyptian deities there were many different stories regarding the parentage of Thoth. Many sources call him the son of Re, but one tradition has him springing forth from the head of Seth. This latter story is reminiscent of the birth of the Greek goddess Athena, who like Thoth was the patron divinity of wisdom.
Myths concerning Thoth show him as a divinity whose counsel is always sought. His most significant role is during the battles of Horus and Seth. Thoth is a staunch supporter of Horus and his mother Isis, maintaining that Horus’ claim to the throne is just and the murderous Seth has no right to the kingship of Egypt.
Elsewhere Thoth is a reliable mediator and peacemaker. When the goddess Tefnut had a dispute with her father Re and absconded to Nubia, it was Thoth that the sun-god sent to reason with her and bring her home. Thoth was also present at the judgement of the dead. He would question the deceased before recording the result of the weighing of the deceased’s heart. If the result was favorable Thoth would declare the deceased as a righteous individual who was worthy of a blessed afterlife.
Thoth was also a lunar deity, and whatever form he took he wore a lunar crescent on his head. Some Egyptologists think that the Egyptians identified the crescent moon with the curved beak of the ibis. It is also suggested that the Egyptians observed that baboon was a nocturnal (i.e. lunar) animal who would greet the sun with chattering noises each morning.
As he was messenger of the gods Thoth was identified by the Greeks with their own god Hermes. For this reason Thoth’s center of worship is still known to us today as Hermopolis.