|Ptah - God of Craft & Craftsmen
In the culture of every great civilisation there is certain to be found a cosmology, that is to say a story or an account of the physical creation. For ancient Egypt this cosmology surrounds the god Ptah. The name "Egypt" derives from "was hwt ka Ptah (the temple of the Ka of Ptah)." This alludes to the primacy within the Egyptian pantheon of, "Ptah, who gave life to all the gods and their kas (souls) through his heart and through his tongue." Essentially, Ptah spoke the world into existence from out of his heart which for the ancient Egyptians was considered the centre of intellect and reason. This clearly is analogous to the ancient Greek and early Christian concepts of the Logos or Word that was instrumental in material creation.
So what kind of god was he? Well, the name "Ptah" is thought to mean "to sculpt" and in one ancient invocation the supplicant begins by hailing him as "great Ptaḥ, creator of crafts, sculptor of earth." Furthermore, Ptah is described in the Book of the Dead as “a master architect, and framer of everything in the universe.” So although Ptah was considered a supreme deity, he was likewise regarded in ancient Egypt as having quite particular attributes as a god of the arts, crafts, and architecture. His very first creation was the god Atum, associated with the sun, illumination, and out of which everything else came into being. Atum was "self-engendered" that is to say he came out of Ptah, being a mode or manifestation of him. The Ka of Atum/Ptah is metaphorically described as semen, seeds that permeate and animate all of creation. Once again, analogies with the "logos spermatikos" of the Stoics and early Christians are readily apparent. Atum fashioned everything out of chaos represented as primeval waters or alternatively as the world serpent both being just further manifestations of Atum, making him at once creator and creation.
The City of Makers
|Djoser's mortuary complex, Saqqara
|Deir el Medina, City of Makers
|Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahari
In our next essay in the series I expect that we'll find some pleasant parallels with what we've discovered here in Egypt as we explore how art, craft, and architecture are similarly woven into the cosmology and mythological accounts of the ancient Greeks.
Contributed by Patrick Webb