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Ram of Mendes [WAS Goat of Mendes ]

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.mythology,alt.magick,talk.religion.misc
From: (Katherine Griffis)
Subject: Ram of Mendes  [WAS Re: Goat of Mendes (Baphomet)]
Date: Fri, 18 Dec 1998 21:26:10 GMT

On Thu, 17 Dec 1998 17:53:17 -0800, catherine yronwode

>>Dan Washburn wrote:

>> The excerpt below may shed some light on those questions.  Believe it 
>> or not it is from the official Egyptian Tourism web site. It has a 
>> section called Egyptian Antiquities which it describes as 'A vast 
>> resource of Egyptian history, including an in-depth historical 
>> archive, plus information on monuments and artifacts.'
>>[begin quoted text; i've inserted breaks and added my own comments]
>> Coming now to the second great form of Khenmu, that under which he 
>> was worshipped at Mendes, we find that at a very early date he was 
>> identified with the great god of that city, and was known as 
>> Ba-neb-Tettu, i.e., the Ram, lord of Tettu. 
>Obviously, this local form of Khenmu was one of the many male goat/sheep
>gods the Egyptians worshipped at various sites. As i recall (after
>decades of slowly decaying memory), the original Egyptian ram-god was
>Ptah, the creator, who is presumed to be of a wild species of goat with
>long, outwardly-twirled horns). He was followed in time (at at a
>different locale) by Amon-Ra a.k.a. Ra, a more conventionally
>sheepish-looking ram with backwards-curved horns. Ptah and Ra were
>identified with each other, and thus Ba-neb-Tettu was identified with
>The taxonomic distinctions between goats and sheep were not always clear
>to folks in earlier times; it is easy to assign any given domestic
>animal to the "sheep" category or "goat" category, but wild species are
>harder to distinguish, and that's why it was said of YHVH that he would
>separate the sheep from the goats. He made 'em, after all!

On the contrary, the Egyptians were keen observers of nature; it is the
reference in Herodotus to the sacrifice of goats at Mendes which has
been questioned repeatedly as part of the confusion.  In Egyptian art,
the ram is represented in two distinct types, Ovis longpipes
paleoaegyptica [used primarily in the representations of Khnum, Osiris,
and the Ram at Mendes [Banebdjedet], with undulating horizontal long
horns, and a heavy build.  This is the species known from predynastic
times. The other type is the Ovis aries platyra aegyptiaca , or
curved-horn ram [which makes up the representations of Amun, for
example], and known from the Middle Kingdom onwards.

Most of the literature and evidence indicate that the Egyptians
worshipped rams, although sheep were considered ritually unclean.  I am
not aware of any references to goats in the literature, except for
Herodotus' statement, and it is generally thought he mistook the ram
sacrifices for "goats."

>> Now as the word for "soul" in Egyptian was Ba, the title Ba-neb-Tettu 
>> was sometimes held to mean the "Soul, the lord Tettu,"
>> and this was the name of the ram. 
>Notice that both goats and sheep say "baaa" and so there is a pun in the
>name. I myself have owned a number of rams and named them all with such
>onomotopaeic titles as Ba-Ba-Louie, Ba-Ba-Ram-Das, and Ba-Ga-Vad-Gita

It is thought that the word 'ba", which means [loosely] "soul" and the
reference to the ram (also called 'ba') are based upon an onomatopoeia.

>> In allusion to these Souls the Ram of Mendes is sometimes described as
>> the Ram with "Four faces {or, heads} on the neck," 

Here it should be noted that these associations are _very late_ in
Egyptian religion, and come from about the 20th Dynasty.

>> The female counterpart of Ba-neb-Tettu was Hat-Mehit, and her son by 
>> the god was Heru-pa-khart, the dweller in Atemet, and she
>> was in some way connected with Punt, but the center of her worship in 
>> Egypt was the city of Mendes, of which she is called the "Mother;" 
>> she was, of course, a form of Isis and Hathor, and as such was called 
>> "the Eye of Ra, the lady of heaven, and the mistress of the gods." 

Hat-Mehit was possibly syncretized into Isis as well, but this again was
VERY late, when almost ALL female deities became associated as facets of
Isis.  However, Hat-Mehit's cult seems to have eclipsed in Mendes about
the Middle Kingdom.

>This makes perfect sense in Egyptian terms...and ipso facto makes NO
>sense in terms of 19th and 20th century French and British occultism.
>The so-called "hermaphroditic" Goat of Mendes that Levi presented to the
>public is a goat-headed -- not ram-headed -- humanoid with supposedly
>male genitalia (but, more truthfully, he simply has Mercury's caduceus
>in place of his penis) and female breasts. The Egyptians were not prudes
>-- if they wanted to represent a combined male-female deity, they COULD
>have done so. However, it seems that they did not do this with the Goat
>of Mendes. Instead, their male god Ba-neb-tettu, was married to his
>sister, Hat-Mehgit, and they had a son named Heru-pa-khart (a.k.a.

Likely the confusion comes form the late association of Banebdjedet with
the creator-god Khnum very late in Egyptian literature, which is in the
Chester Beatty I Papyrus [Contendings of Horus and Seth], in which the
god is claimed to "dwell in Setit" - which is identified as an island
Seheil located at the First Cataract of the Nile in Aswan.  Since
Khnum's cult was located at nearby Elephantine, it is apparent that the
syncretism of the two different ram-gods had occurred by this period
(again, Dynasty 20).
>> In late dynastic times, when Ba-neb-Tettu was especially regarded as 
>> the Soul of Orisis, and when the other aspects of the god were not 
>> considered of so much importance, Hat-Mehit was wholly identified with 
>> Isis, and her son "Harpocrates, the dweller in Mendes," became to all 
>> intents and purposes Horus, the son of Isis, by Osiris. 
>In other words, Ba-neb-Tettu, a form of Khenmu, was a local male
>goat-sheep Ra or Ptah analogue later identified also with Osiris. His
>sister-spouse was Hat-Mehit, a local Isis or Hathor analogue. Their son
>was Heru-pa-khart a.k.a. Harpocrates, later identied as a Horus

Khnum is a southern god, and Banebdjedet a god of the northeastern
Delta.  They are distinct gods, which had their own "families" of


Khnum/Satis or Anuket as consort

>> Finally, we have to note that Khenmu as a form of Shu, i.e., as a
>> personification of the wind, and the atmosphere, and the supporter of 
>> heaven, and the light of the Sun and Moon, was worshipped at several 
>> places in Upper Egypt and in Heliopolis under the form of a ram; the
>> center of his worship at last-named place was Het-Benben, or "the 
>> House of the Obelisk." At Latopolis he absorbed the attributes of 
>> Tem, and he was identified with Nu, the maker of the universe and 
>> creator of the gods; similarly, he was regarded as a form of Ptah and 
>> of Ptah-Tanen, 
>Ptah is, of course, the "maker of the gods" and is goat-headed. 

Does anyone have a visual example of Ptah as "ram" or "goatheaded"?  I
have never seen one, and Ptah is particularly represented as a totally
humanoid figure, with a blue skullcap and mummiform body.  This imagery
was in place by Dynasty 1, and AFAIK, the representation never waivered.
However, Ptah IS a creator, and again, androgynous in his form as a
creator deity.  Perhaps the wesbite is referring to Ptah's association
with the earth/chthonic deity Tatanen, which occurred in the Old

>> and his female counterparts were Menhit, Seket, and Tefnut. 

Ptah is primarily associated with Sekhmet, goddess of destruction (while
he represented order).  These deities you mention were not associated
with Ptah although there may be some confusion since they are all
lioness goddesses, as was Sekhmet.  The Memphite Triad consisted of
Ptah, Sekhmet and Nefertum.  A later "son" addition was the deified
mortal, Imhotep, the architect of the Step Pyramid of Djoser.  [See
comments about Ptah as an intellectual god of "crafts", below].

>> In a hymn which is inscribed on the walls of the temple of Esna he is 
>> called, "The prop of heaven who hath spread out the same with his 
>> hands," and the sky is said to "rest upon his head whilst the earth 
>> beareth up his feet." He is "the creator of heaven and earth and all 
>> that herein is, and the maker of whatsoever is; he formed the company 
>> of the gods and he made man upon his potter's wheel." 
>Again, here is a Ptah reference, for this deity is often shown at a
>potter's wheel, creating the universe. Ptah was never a hermaphrodite or
>a bisexual, 

But he was.  In his form as Ptah-Naunet, he was known as the
"father-mother" who bore Atum, in the Memphite theology.  Also, here you
have a confusion of Ptah with Khnum, for Ptah was not a "potter god."
See below.

>> He is "the One god, the source from which sprang the regions on high, 
>> the primeval architect, the maker of the stars, the creator of the 
>> gods, who was never born, and the begetter or maker of his own being, 
>> whom no man can understand or comprehend." 
>Typical creator-god attributions, usually encountered in connection with
>the deity Ptah. . 

Or with most creator deities.  The Egyptians made a distinction between
gods who were born (msw) and gods who "come into being" (xprw). Creator
deities, by their very nature, "came into being" for they could not be
born of another.  Atum is considered the first "completed" being, and
was bisexual, although the Heliopolitan Theology claims him as "coming
to being" while other literature claims he is a creation of Neith or

>Now, just to lock this down, as best i can -- from this material on
>ancient Egypt, supplied by the Egyptian govenrment, i have learned the
>1) The Goat of Mendes was named Ba-neb-Tettu and was a form of Khenmu.

Not quite.  We're talking about distinct deities associated with Mendes
at various times.  Originally, the deity associated with Mendes is a
goddess, Hat-Mehit, which was a fish-goddess.This goddess first appears
in dynastic periods, from the 2nd Dynasty onwards.  She is supplanted by
her consort introduced later, Banebdjedet, a ram-god, which literally
means "Soul [manifestation] of the Lord of the Djedet [Mendes]."

Khnum, OTOH, a deity from the Southern Egyptian area, is known from the
predynastic periods, and is associated with fertility, especially in
line with the Nile inundation.

>2) The word Ba-neb-Tettu refers to the soul (Ba); Ba also means "ram."

Here we're literally talking about the name as the "soul of  [locale]."
The ram symbolism is likely part of the onomatopoeia, and the sexual
side of the ram symbolism seems to be part of the late (post Dyn 20)
symbolism .

>3) Ba-neb-Tettu was at various times an analogue for:

I think "analogue" may be a bit much.  Most of the references here are
talking about "ba" [soul], where syncretized deities occur, and not with
the deity Banebdjedet, specifically.

>     Ra (a.k.a. Amon-Ra), a ram-(sheep)-headed god,

No, this is Khnum in most instances.  The only other association of a
"ram" with Re is in his chthonic "soul" personification, and this is
again part of his association with Khnum, at least in the southern
Egyptian belief system.  This means that this is not Banebdjedet,

>     Ptah, a very ancient goat-headed creator (potter) god,

Again, this is a late syncretism, and the Banebdjedet deity is stated
only in the birth story of Ramses III, which is late (Dyn. 20).  In this
case, the god Tatanen, which is an earth deity (thus the confusion with
Geb) is referred to here.  He is often seen as androgynous and/or as
bisexual. Tatanen was a chthonic deity of vegetation shown as a man with
ram horns  and two feathers. Ptah and Tatanen were syncretized by the
Old Kingdom [sometimes called "Ptah-tanen"], but not with Banebdjedet
until Dyn. 20.

Further, Ptah was not a "potter god" (this is Khnum again), but an
artisan god, who fashions from rich materials (such as the body of
Ramses II, which it is said he fashions from electrum, and his limbs
from copper and iron).  Ptah is a god of architects, craftsmen and
sculptors [intellectual skills of deign and carving], while Khnum was
associated with skills of pottery, which was made with hands.  Thus
Khnum "throws" the material world into existence, made out of water and

>     Osiris, a latterly-popular "saviour" god.

Not sure where the website is getting this: Spell 142 names Osiris as
the "lord of Mendes", but as the "begetter of life" refers not to his
personification as a ram [ergo, sexual] deity but as the "corn god", the
lord of vegetation (Osiris is, after all, a chthonic deity].  

>     Shu, a wind-god

Again, this is Khnum [chthonic] who is associated with Shu, a defender
of the solar deities.  This association comes from Esna inscriptions,
which are, again, very late in Egyptian religion.

>4) In latter times Ba-neb-Tettu was called the "soul" of four gods: 
>     the Soul of Ra, 
>     the Soul of Osiris,
>     the Soul of Seb,  
>     the Soul of Shu.

Of these, the only association with the "soul" of any god listed here is
possibly with Re, once again referring back to the story of the
procreation scene of Ramses III where Tatanen becomes Banebdjedet to
copulate with Ramses III's mother.  Hart has pointed out that this
inscription is "attempting to identify the chthonic deity Ptah-tanen
with the sun-god, the traditional father of the Egyptian Pharaoh since
the ram-god in the religious text known as the Litany of Re is
represented as the 'lord of the sky and the 'life of Re.' "  Hart here
is referring to Ra's chthonic personification [Litany of Re].

Re is the "soul of Osiris" in the underworld [in fact, the souls must
necessarily combine to effect the rebirth of both deities], while Khnum
is associated with the "souls" of Geb/Seb and Shu.  There may have been
an occasion in the Middle Kingdom that the "Soul of Mendes" ram was
associated with Osiris, which was symbolically retained in the Osiris
Atef crown.

>6) Ba-neb-Tettu was not a hermaphrodite but a heterosexual male
>   whose mate was his sister-goddess.

True: the god Khnum is androgynous, however.

>10) Ba-neb-Tettu was not identified with Satan, demons, trickery,
>   "sin," a "fall from grace," eternal damnation, judgement, hell, 
>   "infernal evocations," or adversarial conditions of any kind; in 
>   contradistinction, he was considered to be a masculine-virile 
>   "creator" god.  

Again, I think this is a confusion with Khnum, for neither Banebdjedet
or his Osirian associations place this deity as a "creator" god; that
would be Khnum, and not part of the original syncretism.  Post Dynasty
20 is when you see the confusion between the two deities (likely due to
both being representations of Ovis longpipes paleoaegyptica).

Katherine Griffis-Greenberg

Member, American Research Center in Egypt
               International Association of Egyptologists

University of Alabama at Birmingham
Special Studies

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