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What is Sobek's place in the Egyptian pantheon?

In some places, the Son of Nit/Neith), is Sobek primordial, existing alongside within the dark waters of Nun/Naunet?

Or was his original cult entirely separate from the ogdoadic and enneadic cosmogonies? (The shared temple with Horus of Edfu would come later)

  • Quite possibly predates the Osiris myth. – guest1 Jul 12 '17 at 18:45
  • Good question. Welcome to mythology! – DukeZhou Jul 12 '17 at 21:34
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Sobek is a god that has been worshipped throughout all the Egyptian, from the Old Kingdom up to the Ptolemy time. His name in Egyptian is SBK [notice the hieroglyphs S (reed) + B (foot) + K (basket) + determinative crocodile (optional) + God sign], it is not known the origin. let's also say the term ruler in old Egyptian was written crocodile crocodile falcon [ity in old egyptian] making relatively clear that Sobek is not a second zone god, it is a direct embodiment of the power of the pharaoh as Horus. Let's see what the Egyptian said:

Old Kingdom

The Old Kingdom is the time of the Pyramids (forget once and for all those Hollywoodian movies depicting Ramses building Pyramids with tons of slaves). The Pyramid Texts are a series of incantations found in the pyramids, in hieroglyphs you can find on the internet some translations, and even hiero yphs, if you can decipher them [the institute of Chicago provides a whole bunch of them]. Here are some texts:

Tomb of unis/Unas, 212: Unis has looked at you like Horus looks at Isis, Unis has looked at you like Kas-Assigner looks at Selket, Unis has looked at you like Sobek looks at Neith, Unis has looked at you like Seth looks at the two reconciled gods.

So clearly Neith is linked as Sobek mother. Later:

Tomb of Unis 222: Unis has come here in advance of the flood’s immersion: Unis is Sobek, green of plumage, 86 with alert face and raised fore, the splashing one who came from the thigh and tail of the great goddess in the sunlight.

Sobek is green of plumage (An obvious reference to the fat crocodile are green and to the Nile fertile covered with vegetation [plumage]). note that green is Egyptian is wAD or wadj, which is used also for vigorous, valiant, energetic, etc.

Tomb of unis 222 Unis has appeared as Sobek, Neith’s son. Unis will eat with his mouth, Unis will urinate and Unis will copulate with his penis. Unis is lord of semen, who takes women from their husbands to the place Unis likes according to his heart’s fancy.

Here we see once again Sobek referred quite clearly as Neith's son and linked with fertility (male one) and who takes women from their husbands. Which is so clearly an attribute of Sobek. Here is another Sobek thing:

Tomb of Pepi 478: My father has inherited from Horus as Horus in Seal-ring, Seth in the Ennead, Sobek in [Shedit].

So Sobek is not from the Ennead but related to Shedit. What is Shedit? Shedit or Shedet is also called Faiyum or in Greek Krokodilopolis or in Roman Arsinoe, it is and still is an Egyptian city.

Tomb of Pepi 523: His face is that of a jackal, his middle is that of Qebehut: he will give judgment as Sobek in Shedit and as Anubis in Takhbit

Takhbit is a site associated with Seth, we don't know where it was situated.
So Sobek is known during the old Kingdom, obviously as the son of Neith, linked to the crocodiles, the vegetation, the marsh, the semen, the fertility. He is NOT at all from the Enead. And we can clearly see is nature as quite sexual (consider he takes the wife out of the husband...) and not cool... As the crocodile btw.

Middle Kingdom

The Middle Kingdom is arguably less known by people. No more pyramids, and not yet the sumptuous building from the New Kingdom... We have lots of texts written in sarcophagus known as "Coffin Texts". Those texts are based on the Pyramid Texts and were written inside the sarcophagus, on urns, tombs walls, masks, and as time goes by on various papyrus [papyri for snobs].

Spells 991: To become Sobek. I am the seed which issued from the encircling wrapping. I am he who broke the teeth of him who cut away the iron. I am the Lord of strength and might who took crocodile-shape. I am the Lord of wrong who lives on woe. I am that crocodile whose tongue was cut out because of the mutilation of Osiris. I am he who puts fear whom the Ennead fear. I am that god who rises in the East and sets in the West, to whom the Niles are given. I am that god whom the eight row. I am Sobek, the rebel who is among you[the gods]; you cannot do anything against me, you spirits or you dead, for I have taken possession of the sky and have taken possession of the earth.

During the Middle Kingdom Sobek will become a fairly important god (that is when Krokodilopolis is founded after all), specifically during Amenhamat 3, and by the way, the first attested female Pharaoh is Sobekneferu (see the Sobek). This spell is quite interesting (to say the least). just see that Sobek is clearly referred to not being a member of the Ennead. Not only that but "the 8 row for him", they 8 are the Ogdoad. So we clearly are confronted to a pretty powerful god, depicted as a rebel among the god and fairly over both the "oads". So we can put Sobek in the place of Ouranous. Old god of immense power and technically a primordial god.
Another interesting spell is the 158 where Sobek is plunging in the Nile to retrieve Horus's severed hand:

Ra said: "This son of Isis is injured by reason of what his mother herself has done to him; would that we might fetch Sobek from the back of the waters, that he may fish them out and so that his mother Isis may cause them to grow (again) in their proper place". And Sobek from the back of the waters said: "I have fished and I have sought; they slipped from my hand upon the banks of the waters, but I fished them up in the end with a fish-trap", that is how the fish-trap came into being.

This is where you see originated Sobek-Horus a pretty important deity during Middle Kingdom.

New Kingdom

the final time of Egypt (Ramses was from this time, and no pyramids, no Hollywood), the new Kingdom is where Egypt will be at his apogee, most known Pharoah (Seti, Ram(es)ses, Hatchepsut) are from that time. One founding book is the conflict [contending] between Horus and Seth. In the passage I will cite, Re is writing a letter [Toth is the one writing Re cannot write] to Neith.

To wit: your humble servant, spend all night on Osiris's behalf consulting the Two Lands every day, while Sobek endures forever.

Let's translate this passage: Ra, the sun, is vanishing every day, so he cannot see what is happening constantly, contrary to both Neith, the sky, and Sobek his son, the Nile. Hence he is asking Neith advice. Which shows also the quite complex relationship between Egyptian gods.

During the New Kingdom, a new entity Sobek-Ra (clearly inspired by Sobek-Horus) will come. Most illustration you find with Sobek and the headdress as a sun is from the late New Kingdom.

Set and Sobek

Some authors mention that Sobek is the son of Set, just because of the close relationship between Set and the crocodiles [msh in old Egyptian, written with an owl (m), a lock (s), a rope (h), then a crocodile]. Notice that Sobek both in Middle and old Kingdom is fairly highly revered and one as to see that Sobek represent the strength of the crocodile when Set is destructive nature. it is also evident that during the Old kingdom Sobek was less reliable, without being linked with Set.

conclusion

Sobek is an incredibly old deity worshipped until the very last end of Egypt (around 300 CE). It becomes central during Middle Kingdom in LOTS of stories (I skipped a lot of them to keep things simple). He is traditionally associated with Horus, Amon or Ra. He is not a part of the "oads" but generally over them.

Bibliography

The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts, by J.P. Allen
Same but by R.O Faulkner
The Coffin Text Faulkner
The book of the dead Faulkner (Do yourself a big favor: Forget the one of Budge...)

Sitography

Hierogl An handy hieroglyphic dictionary. Unfortunately in French.

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  • Thanks for that answer. I should have realized Sobek and Krokodilopolis were connected. – solsdottir Jul 17 '17 at 0:38
  • @mythology.stackexchange.com/users/292/solsdottir It is not always easy to find those connections intuitively because we either use Egyptian name (Sobek/SBK), here instead of the Greek Suchos or the Greek names (Isis for Aset; Anubis for Inpou). Add to the confusion the traditional totally false vision of pyramids in New Kingdom. Don't know if this is a problem we face in Norse mythes. – Gibet Jul 17 '17 at 7:30
  • No, fortunately the names, although altered slightly, tend to be essentially the same. There is an overlay of Christianity, especially in the Prose Edda, which was written by a Christian to instruct post-conversion poets in the old myths, but with the Egyptians it seems like there's the filter of a different culture as well. (Celtic religion can be like that, too.) – solsdottir Jul 17 '17 at 22:49

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