SOBEK
Story by Brandon L. Parsons (2015)
Sobek: The Crocodilian Creator
Sobek: The Crocodilian Creator

Ancient Egyptian civilization could simply NOT have happened without the life-giving waters of the long, snake-like waters of the Nile River. Surrounding the river are great, green, lush areas that the Egyptians use even today to farm and produce food, and which provided them the power to build mighty empires. In ancient times, the yearly flood would wash through and dump rich, brown soil down along the banks to make it the plains blossom. You could say the the Nile was the absolute center of their world, and it kind of was, as if one walks a few miles east or west of the long, wide river, you're instantly surrounded by sand, sand, an perhaps, if you're very lucky, more sand, for thousands of miles! That river was (and in many was, still is!) the center of Egyptian life. So, it may not surprise you to find out that the Nile was created and guarded by a fairly impressive god in the Egyptian pantheon; the crocodile-headed, needle-toothed SOBEK, the scaly creator of the Egyptian's very world.

Sobek.gifIt was believed by most in ancient Egypt that Sobek created the world when he arose from Nun or "Dark Water" (the chaotic, black waters that covered the entire universe at the beginning of time). In doing that, he did something crazy and new for the first time ever!; he actually created the order out of chaotic nothingness in the universe! According to the myth, he lay his many eggs along the edges of Nun and they became the land, and as the "Lord of the Waters," the oozy sweat from his brow became the Nile River (and don't ask how "he" laid his eggs. Just roll with it.). After creation, Sobek also served as the god of the Nile who brought fertility to the land in the form of the yearly flood. So, you might say that Sobek was one of THE most important of the important in the Egyptian gods department (especially in the hardcore looks department!)! However, even though he was seen as a force for creation and a bring of new things to the world, he was also seen as an unpredictable, moody, violent god who sometimes was an ally with the forces of Chaos. Creation is, after all, unpredictable and never always goes according to plan! (and like with a crocodile, you can't be too careful!)


sobek3.pngAs far as his parents are concerned, there are several different stories about where Sobek came from. Some say he was the son of the ancient goddess Neith, who handled war and hunting. Others say he was the son of Set, the god of rough thunder and chaos. As records back then are hard to come by, archaeologists have a hard time figuring out just WHO he belonged to precisely! When it comes to who he was married to or hung out with, the list gets even crazier. Many accounts pair him up with a few lucky goddesses: Hathor, Renenutet, Heqet and Taweret. It could be any or even all! Sobek was supposedly the proud papa of a few of the gods himself, including Khonsu, Horus and Khnum. But again, who truly knows for sure? Egyptian mythology is fragmented and goes all over the place due to just how ancient it all is.


sobek4.pngCalled "The Rager" by some groups of ancient Egyptians (a perfect name for a buff god with a crocodile for a head!), it is likely that Sobek was at first seen as a dark and angry god that had to be worshiped constantly to keep his jaws from ripping and tearing into you, taking big chunks of meat with him. Later on though, his protective qualities and his massive strength were looked at as a valuable thing, used in protection of the Pharaoh (the Egyptian ruler) and the people of Egypt. He was a god who protected the dead (or at least the ones who had passed the "purity" test and who were seen as worthy to live for eternity in the underworld!) and Sobek was known as the god who could restore their senses and sight when they arrived in the Land of the Dead. He was also seen as the patron (or guardian) of the army due to his animalistic ferocity! A thrashing and raging crocodile would not be such a bad thing to have looking after you as you go into battle!

sobek3.jpg
In some areas of Egypt, tame crocodiles were kept in special ceremonial pools in temples and in the pharaoh's palace and were worshiped as the earthly version of Sobek himself. Oddly, wild crocodiles out in the Nile were immensely feared and hated and were hunted down fiercely. The strength of the crocodile was thought to be a symbol of the pharaoh, as many of the hieroglyphics that feature Sobek also have the word-symbol for "sovereign" (ruler) above them. The crocodile god was supposedly able to protect the pharaoh from any nasty black magic that might be used against him by sorcerers out for a little get-back revenge. Some pharaohs were so into Sobek themselves that when they were crowned pharaoh, Sobek's name became part of their kingly titles and new name.

Sobel depicted in ancient hieroglyphics...
Sobel depicted in ancient hieroglyphics...

Sobek was said to have acted as a sort of assistant to the goddess Isis when she gave birth to falcon-headed Horus, helping to birth the sky god in the earliest days of Egyptian mythology. Later on, he would in turn help out Horus by rescuing several of his god-sons from a flood in the Nile River; the "protector" gods that each had a certain part of the body to protect when a pharaoh was mummified. They were Imsety, the human-headed protector of the liver, Hapy, the baboon-headed protector of the lungs, Duamutef, the jackal-headed protector of the stomach and Qebehsenuef, the falcon-headed protector of the intestines. They were all stranded on a lotus-bloom, floating out in the raging current of the flood-swollen Nile and Sobek busted on through the current, caught them with a net with one powerful swipe and pulled them to shore and to safety.

Sobek, King of the Nile
Sobek, King of the Nile

Sobek's wardrobe was often seen as a feathery-plumed headdress with a horned sun disk crown, and along with it, he carried the Was (pronounced "wass") scepter (representing power) and the Ankh (representing the breath of life). Mummified crocodiles representing the god have been found in many ancient tombs. The Egyptians mummified both infant and mature crocodiles and even added crocodile eggs and fetuses with the deceased in order to gain the protection of Sobek in the afterlife. Talk about quite the honor for the king of crocs!

Sobek was known as the Lord of Faiyum, a special and holy area in ancient Egypt and it is thought that his worship originated there in the earliest times. In particular, he was very popular in the city of Shedyet near the Faiyum, causing the Greeks (after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt) to rename the city Crocodilopolis. Pretty cool name for a city! In Crocodilopolis, tame crocodiles were kept in a sacred pool and hand fed choice cuts of meat and honey cakes and adorned with precious jewels. Talk about the life for your average reptile! Worship of Sobek would last until as far as the early Christian days when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire, making Sobek quite the oldster with several thousand years of worship under his belt! Not too shabby for a crocodilian creator god!

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Sobek as seen in ancient Egyptian stone monument carvings...
Sobek as seen in ancient Egyptian stone monument carvings...