20 Important facts about Ptah, the ancient Egyptian god of creation and craftsmen
The ancient Egyptian god Ptah was worshiped as the god of creation and craftsmen. Regarded as one of the three deities of Memphis (which included Sekhmet and Nefertem) in Egyptian mythology, Ptah took for himself the goddess Sekhmet as his wife. According to the myth, he bore the young god Nefertum with Sekhmet. He was also believed to have fathered Maahes and Imhotep (the famous Egyptian architect and sage).
Here are 20 facts that shed light on the fascinating origin story, meaning and symbols of Ptah:
- The ancient Egyptian name of Memphis, Hikuptah, translates to “Home of the Soul of Ptah”.
- In many cases, Ptah was associated with a number of ancient Egyptian deities, including Bast (Bastet), Osiris, Bes and Soker (Seker).
- Ptah’s worship and cult centers were not solely confined to the land of Egypt. Along eastern Mediterranean region, Ptah’s worship centers have been unearthed. Some historians even claim that his worship reached all the way to Carthage.
- Ancient Egyptians believed that the divine semen that Ptah used to create the world can be found in the djed – a symbol of stability.
- Other very important symbols of Ptah were the two birds that had human heads. Those birds were believed to be the souls of the creator god Re. Their essence symbolized the Ba – the duality of the gods Shu (air) and Tefnut (moisture).
- In addition to performing religious rituals, the priests of Ptah, who were called “chief controller of craftsmen” (wr khrp hmw), served as chief architects in ancient Egypt. For example, the chief priest Imhotep is credited with the construction of the world’s first stone pyramid – the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara.
- To symbolize Ptah as a deity that listens to prayers, the people of Memphis took to carving gigantic ears on the walls of temples.
- Inhabitants of Pi-Ramesses revered Ptah as the Master of Ceremonies. Pi-Ramesses was the capital city of ancient Egypt during the reign of 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II.
- Ptah was also worshiped in Abydos, Gerf Hussein (in Nubia), and Abu Simbel (Nubia). In Abydos for example, the god was given the name Ptah-Sokar.
- The sacred bull Apis (or Hapis) was revered as the divine intermediary between Ptah and humans.
- Ptah was revered as the god Tatenen – the primeval mound from everything in the universe emerged from.
- The famous Greek historian and author Herodotus viewed Ptah as equivalent to Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of fire and forge.
- Predominantly worshiped in Memphis (in Lower Egypt) as the manifestation of Ptah, Apis was generally seen as the son of Hathor, the Egyptian goddess of royalty.
- According to The Shabaka Stone, Ptah is believed to have ended the quarrel between Egyptian gods Horus and Set (Seth).
- Ptah was regarded as the third highest god, behind the sun god Ra and Amen (the hidden god).
- In some account, Ptah was believed to have created Atum himself. Ptah created Atum who then proceeded to create other Egyptian deities.
- Ptah is generally depicted as a man with long beard and a green skin. On top of his head is a skullcap. Ptah carries in his hand a sceptre which incorporates three important Egyptian symbols – the Was (symbol of power and dominion), the djed (symbol of stability), and the ankh (symbol of life).
- Ptah’s symbol the djed – an ancient Egyptian symbol that represents stability – can also be interpreted as the pillar that holds the universe from collapsing in on itself. The ancient Egyptians also believed that it represented the spine in the human body. The djed pillar was also associated with Osiris, the ancient Egyptian god of the afterlife and the dead.
- The ancient Egyptians believed that Ptah helped the dead in their journeys through the underworld. He was sometimes called “the Opener” because he granted the dead the ability to open their mouths, eyes and ears in the afterlife. This allowed them to eat, speak, and hear just as they would have done in the land of the living.
- Examples of Ptah’s title include: Ptah the Lord of Truth; Master of Justice; and The Lord who listens to prayers.