Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why did ancient Egyptians worship the crocodile?

Al Ahram Weekly (Mohamed el-Biali)

To answer this question one must examine the physical attributes, lifestyle, and feeding patterns of this awesome beast. The African Nile crocodile, or crocodylus niloticus, is a carnivore reptile that can grow six meters in length. It spends most of the day lingering on the shores, spends most of the night underwater, and likes to hunt at the first light of dawn.

There is a stealthy air about crocodiles. They move quietly and do not emit any sound, but if attacked or injured their shrieks can be utterly terrifying.

The crocodile's method of feeding is curious. When it catches a prey, it holds the prey in its jaws and dives long enough to drown it. Then it buries it whole in a shallow spot and leaves it to putrefy, as it prefers to consume decomposed flesh rather than fresh one.

In ancient Egyptian vernacular, the word for crocodile (minus vowels) was M-S-H, possibly the origin of the current Arab word temsah. In religious texts, the crocodile was represented as Sobek, a deity associated with fertility. The Ptolemies worshipped the crocodile as Sokhos, a play on Sobek.

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