Sobek is the Ancient Egyptian crocodile God. He has an intimidating appearance - the head
of a callous crocodile and the strong body of a man. His head brandishes the custom double
crown of Amun; an embellished Symbol of divine authority, featuring the horns of a ram, wrapped
by two Uraeus cobra. This headdress features the red solar disk flanked by tall illustrious
plumes. A crown like this is reserved for only the most significant characters in Egypt.
In his fully zoomorphic form, he is simply a giant powerful crocodile, sometimes adorned
with golden accessories.
Sobek is the son of Neith, the prime creator, a goddess of war; Architect of the universe
and all gods. She was the mother of crocodiles and a personification of primeval waters.
In Egyptian mythology, these first waters of creation were seen as the origin of life.
Sobek emerged from the chaotic rapids to assume his position as the reptile god. He was the
one who rose out of the primordial waters.
In most myths, he remains childless. It’s uncommon for such a prominent god to have
no children. This is really unusual, especially considering who Sobek was. How could an Egyptian
goddesses look at this handsome devils face and not be keen some Sobek kids. No kids,
but he wasn’t necessarily single.
One of his consorts was Renenutet, Goddess of the harvest. Sobek really wanted children,
but she never seemed to be interested. Renenutet was always reminding him about how she is
such a busy lady these days and there’s no way she had any time for children. Oh no..
Well, not Sobek’s apparently. Several myths have his other consort as Hathor. She was
the one last hope for Sobek’s genetic legacy.
No luck with her either. No kids. Hathor by
the way, is a significant goddess of fertility. Yes, Married to a Goddess of fertility (The
Goddess of Fertility) and still no children. Poor Sobek.
If all of this isn’t bad enough, his name is derived from an Egyptian word which means
to impregnate. He was even called Lord of semen in a few spells. I’m not finished
though. They even named sobek “The one who takes women from their husbands whenever he
wishes according to his desire”.
Apparently, Sobek was shooting blanks. That or he was taking these women from their husbands
to get stuck on first base. Why there were never any little Sobek’s running around
the banks of the nile, it truly is a mystery.
People often wonder what exactly is Sobek the god of? Like many Egyptian gods,
he didn’t really have a specific role per say. On a super basic level, he was often
closely associated with the colour green. When he wasn’t being called the Raging one,
The Great Male Being or Lord of Semen, he went by “green of plume”.
Some also saw him as god and protector of the nile. In a lot of myths, he alone created
the nile by unleashing godly sized buckets of his sweat onto the dry desert. The river
began to run and lush green foliage sprouted along the nile. Sobek single handedly saturated
the prosperous nile with his perspiring pores, bringing new life to Egypt.
This particular myth and the aquatic qualities of crocodiles could be why he was accepted
as the god of water.
At some points in Egypt, he even became a solar deity of sorts. Water god and Sun god.
Hold on, don’t these two elements conflict as opposites in a way? And
wasn’t Ra the falcon already the god of the Sun. Yea, this all true. Fortunately,
Egyptians came up with a truly genius fix for this dichotomy. If Ra the Falcon is already
the sun god and Sobek the crocodile is already the water god… Just put the sun gods head
on the water gods body. Boom, Sobek-Ra. The sun god and the water god combined. Too easy.
Greeks and Egyptians often created these funny hybrid gods. For instance, Sobek also did
a stint as Sobek-Horus, another falcon headed god. Sometimes he was even depicted with the
body of a crocodile and the head of a man.
Whilst we're on the topic of strange duality, we have to talk about something. Egyptians
and Crocodiles. There are some weird things about this duo that
very few people ever discuss.
In some parts of Egypt, many crocodiles were worshipped like gods because of Sobek. We all kinda knew
that, but here’s where things get confusing. Whilst in some parts of Egypt crocodiles were
gods, In other parts of egypt, crocodiles were categorically hated and hunted for sport.
You kill a crocodile in one area and you’re celebrated. You kill a crocodile in another
and you become the hunted. How can you have some parts of Egypt that absolutely detest
crocodiles with every fiber of their being and other parts who worship them as divine
beings. To solve this mystery, we’ll need to visit a famous Anceint city. Undeniably,
the most appropriately named city in history. Crocodilopolis.
You probably know from its title what Crocodilopolis is all about. It’s no mistake a city named
Crocodilopolis worshipped a crocodile god. In greek and later latin, Crocodilopolis translates
to Crocodile City and here, Sobek was worshipped religiously. Everyone wore crocodile amulets
and jewelry. Crocodile styled rings were prized possessions. A gold signet ring with a crocodile
theme commanded the highest level of respect. Little crocodile statues and trinkets were
common household items collected for good luck. Crocodopolis temples contained gigantic
statues to honor their cold blooded god. In this city, even Greeks and Romans paid their
respects to Sobek through worship and offerings at his temples.
Crocodilopolis is one of the major cities of the Egyptian Faiyum, an area of the ancient
Shedet. No people worshiped Sobek like the people of Shedet.
The Faiyum people even hand raised special crocodiles on religious grounds.
These rare crocodiles would grow into what Egyptians perceived as living incarnations of Sobek
himself. They swam in man made pools and freely roamed the neighbouring waters.
This city was infested by crocodiles for obvious reasons. Whist there were many, one particular
crocodile stood out. The most sacred, biggest prehistoric beast in the city. This one of
a kind crocodile was named “Son of Soukhos”.
He was one of one, and was often covered ingolden jewelry and semi-precious gemstones. Whilst intimidatingly imposing, this crocodile
was raised from birth to be completely tame. He was still wild, but he had a friendly side
apparently. Really, he may have been the most relaxed, chilled out crocodile in history.
You could probably even climb into his gigantic toothy mouth and walk away with all of your
limbs still attached.
The biggest factor in the placidity and friendly demeanour of this guy, was the fact that his
voracious hunger was always completely satiated. He never experienced hunger, but not in the
way you might be thinking. Our Son of Soukhos enjoyed a frequent diet of bread, meat and
honey with milk.
Every time a new guest arrived to his temple with a food offering, the tiny priests would
have to chase the gigantic crocodile around the lake. Priests were obligated to feed him
the offerings they were given by the temples visitors. To not feed him a new offering would
be disrespectful to Sobek himself. The Son of Souhkos was a slippery reptile and it wasn’t
easy to catch him. He was always running away from the little priests because he knew what
would happen when they caught him. The only reason these priests were ever successful
in catching our Son of Souhkos, was because of how huge, slow and drunk he was. Drunk?
When they eventually caught him, they opened his mouth and feed him offerings of sweet
cakes and wine. You can see why he was such a massive beast. Here’s where things get
a little dodgy for our Son of Soukhos. Remember, we’re in Crocodilopolis. There are frequent
visitors who for the most part, all brought offerings for our giant croc. Assuredly, not
an offering went to waste and our holy crocodile was very, very well fed, albeit with a diet
full of sweet treats and alcohol. He
was exceptionally well looked after, but it sounds like the Egyptian priests didn’t
acknowledge feeding a crocodile confectionery carbohydrates and liquor all day wasn’t
great for its longevity, or clearly it’s waistline.
The son of Soukhos would eventually be replaced by a new crocodile. This only happened once
he died though. As he was seen as the son of Sobek himself, he received a royal burial
when his time came. So, it was time for the special ceremony once the Son of Soukhos inevitably
died of a heart attack. This included a regal mummification and Baby crocodiles were placed
in his mouth. Crocodiles transport their young by carrying them in their mouths in this way.
They are one of the few reptiles that actively care for their young. Egyptians saw this nurturing
side of crocodiles. The savagery of these dinosaur like creatures was certain, but so
was how they cared for their young. Perhaps if crocodiles cared so much for their offspring,
Sobek would also care for the wellbeing of Egypt so to speak. Should
there be an animal on your side for protection, it best be powerful in some way. This is the
kind of perception duality sobek influenced. A supremely strong and fearsome deity with
the ability to do massive damage or to lovingly look after those close to him. A respectable
He was mainly worshipped in areas of Egypt where crocodiles were abundant and posed a
serious threat. Anywhere with open waters that a predatory crocodile may inhabit was
a cause for concern. Fear and respect came hand in hand with Sobek and the people of
the Faiyum had a particularly strong connection to him. If you see crocodiles all day, it’s
only fitting your local hero aligns with this.
To further this point of crocodile admiration, would you believe me if I told you that Sobek
was seen a god that created order? I know a vicious unpredictable crocodile isn’t
the most likely candidate for such a claim. Why would an aggressive crocodile god be seen
to create order? Chaos and unpredictability is the impression a croc leaves for most,
but a fantastic myth in the coffin texts reveals the story of Sobek restoring order to Egypt.
Her aggressive expression is uncharacteristic, making it exceptionally frightening. Very
seldom had anyone ever seen her in such a state. No one knew the source of this explosive
anger, just that her Son Horus was the perpetrator and she wanted to teach him a lesson. Isis
casts a viscous magic spell to Pin Horus down and remove both of his hands. In her rage,
she sends them to the depths of the nile river. They slowly sank to the bottom, making them
almost impossible to retrieve. Horus is now handless. He looks defeated, but there’s
a part of him that is relieved. Whilst in this moment he felt like a hostage to the
magic of ISIS, he was glad only his hands were removed and not his head. These actions
by Isis would not go unanswered though. Someone was watching.
Ra was observing all of this from the skies above as falcon. He took some time to think
about the situation before he came to a decision. Ra was fair and believed in order over chaos.
Naturally, he considered Isis’ actions unjust. He thought it was only reasonable that his
friend and fellow falcon god Horus got his hands back.
Ra had an issue though. Whilst he was proficient around water, the hands were now far too deep
in the river for him to retrieve them. He knew there was only one other being who could
access the depths of the nile. Sobek.
Most gods wanted as little as possible to do with Sobek. Unless he was crafting something
or you caught him on a good day, he had grisly demeanour and a short fuse. Sobek did have
a few things going for him though. He was surprisingly creative, an amazing swimmer
and clearly very Handsome. Reluctantly, on this occasion, Ra had no choice. He needed
Sobek. He was however, very aware of the crocodile gods difficult disposition. Sobek wasn’t
the charitable type and it was unlikely he’d do a favour for nothing. Knowing this, Ra
creates something to incentivise him. This would be a bribe he was positive Sobek could
Grudgingly it was time for Ra to visit the nile.
After a few close calls with the crocodiles of the Nile, Ra enters Sobeks palace.
The entire temple was flooded. Of course it was flooded.
He is standing in tepid knee high water and waits for Sobek to surface.
It’s dark inside, softly illuminated by Ra’s
red hot solar disk. Every little sound reverberates off the dark granite walls. Ra begins to feel
the water beneath him moving. Sobek swiftly surfaces.
Ra is caught completely off guard and goes into greeting autopilot. He asks Sobek how’s
your day been, how’s the wife, how’s the kids…
Sobek still had water in his ears and didn’t catch any of that, fortunately. Without hesitation, he bluntly asks Ra
What do you want.
Ra breathes a massive sigh of relief and begins explaining the predicament to Sobek, knowing
that he’d probably have to bargain for his help. He thought he’d try simply asking
for the favour, hoping Sobek would understand. Ra was noble and prefered not resort to bribes.
Who knows, Sobek could have been in a good mood, so he asks. Nope, bad mood as usual.
Sobek abruptly refuses with a ferocious snap. He’s as grumpy as ever and it’s clear
he isn’t enjoying Ra’s honorable company.
It was time for plan B: Ra’s trump card. Ra cautiously stretches out his closed
hand towards Sobek, watching the crocodile God intently. He reluctantly opens his clenched
fist, presenting Sobek with the irresistible bribe. It’s a stunning gold signet ring,
no crocodilian god could refuse.
The jaws of Sobek slowly separate, revealing his terrifying teeth. His pining eyes reflect
the glistening object before him. Sobek looks possessed and Ra fears what the cold blooded
god is about to do. Fortunately, Sobek was simply overcome with uncontrollable desire
for the golden trinket and he enthusiastically agrees to the quest. Ra begins telling Sobek
that the hands are now located at the bottom of the river but before he could finish, Sobek
As soon as Sobek hits the water, an uneasy feeling washes over him.
He had barely listened to Ra’s words the moment he was presented with the special
ring. His reptilian brain completely took over. He was overwhelmed by its marvel and
forgot about what was living at the bottom of the nile. Since the inception of the niles
creation, he had not visited its depths for this wretched reason.
As he swam deeper, he began to remember why he had only been down there once. One time
in all these years. He had a strong feeling the reality of this dreaded memory would soon
be confirmed. He pauses momentarily and considers turning back. After a moment to gather his
thoughts, he continues swimming with the motivation of Ra’s beautiful bribe still fresh in his
He approaches the bottom of the nile and lays eyes on the hands. They rest in complete darkness
under an intentionally piled prison of rocks. The inside of this cavernous dwelling would
have been invisible to most, but Sobeks eyes were well equipped
The hands are right there. He could almost reach out and touch them. They are
at the very bottom of the river as expected, but Sobek can’t retrieve them. Even though
they are right there in front of him, there is a formidable enemy preventing him from
getting Ra’s ring. A preventative force Sobek hates with all of his godly will.
The green is sucked out of Sobek’s scaly skin the moment he clearly sees what is guarding
the hands. “They” were waiting at the bottom of the nile for him. The reason Sobek
couldn't get the hands of Horus was because they had taken the hands for themselves. They,
were sobek's nemesis, the fish of Chaos. These aren’t just any fish though. They are the
fastest in the nile. As quick as lightning and intrepid daredevils. The one and only
time he dared swim to the depths of the nile, the fish trolled Sobek relentlessly. This
miserable memory flashes through his mind. He remembers how uncontrollably furious they
had made him and the aftermath of frustrated destruction he caused to Egypt afterwards.
The two fish simply loved creating chaos. They were the reason why he hadn’t been
this deep in a very long time.
The flashback to his first encounter with the fish is overwritten by the glow of the
glorious gold ring. He was unwaveringly determined to get that ring, but first, he needed those
damn hands. The fish could now see Sobek, so they enthusiastically exit the cave holding
the hands in their fins. He begins chase. When it came to swimming, Sobek was always
the most skilled in the Nile River Valley, but not in the company of these two fish.
No matter how hard he tries, he can’t catch them. Surprisingly, they’re overjoyed to
see Sobek again. They loved nothing more than to torment the crocodile god. The fish were
very aware that he never had a chance of outpacing them. The chaos of Sobeks frustrations delighted
the daring duo.
The chase continues until Sobek is moments away from conceding defeat and almost snaps.
He is at the end of his fuse now and is about to implode when he experiences a brilliant
moment of inspiration. Instead of an implosion, a light bulb goes off in his head. His visions
of chaos were replaced with the clarity of creativity. The golden finish line made him
see clearly. For now, he would give up chase and return to the surface.
As night falls the fish to go to sleep. He swims back down deep into the river and diligently
executes his plan. He makes sure not to get close enough to wake the sleeping fish. He
didn’t want to alert them yet.
Sobek would now wait for the first warm light of the aten to shine over the nile.
Sobek patiently waits and as soon as Khepri thrusts the first
sun into the new sky,
His eyes close to a squint and
his sight narrows with tunnel vision. He puts his entire godly focus and will on the fish,
and thrusts himself into their rocky home. They hadn’t seen him yet, but they soon would.
Sobek was waiting for them this time.
They instantly wake up, quickly grab the hands
and the chase begins the chase once more. He swims as fast as he can. The fish can not
believe their luck. First they both get hands of a god. Now, they get two days of terrific
back-to-back Sobek trolling. The pair is elated and continues to tease him. Whilst he gets
closer than before, Sobek still can’t catch them. They mercilessly mock him but Sobek
is unusually calm. Normally he would have smoke coming out of his ears at this point
and would be absolutely furious. Everything was going to plan though. The fish didn’t
know it, but this time things were different. Sobek remains cool and continues his seemingly
futile chase, until everything suddenly comes to a halt. The fish stop dead in their tracks.
It was as if the nile itself had abruptly stopped flowing. Sobeks plan had worked.
The night before, Sobek’s creativity lead to a new invention.
He couldn’t beat them with speed,
so he’d beat them with creativity.
His solution, was a special fish trap. He invented the world's
first fishing net and had sprawled it across the bottom of the river. This genius contraption
had done its job perfectly. The audacious Fish of Chaos had no idea what was coming.
Sobek’s creativity had triumphed over the
chaotic nature of the niles fish.
Our story ends with Sobek retrieving the hands from the net and returning them to Ra. He
exchanges the hands for his gleaming gift. Ra looks down at the detached hands and then
looks up at Sobek who is now wearing the ring. Ra’s expression morphs from relief, to confusion
to total shock. He was staring straight at Sobek and couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
For the first time in history in an unprecedented event, Sobek smiles. He was so happy,
little crocodile tears had filed his eyes. Ra couldn’t help himself and mirrored the
joyous expression. He knew he should never do this, but reciprocating, he smiled at the
After this, Ra went to visit his buddy Horus and returned the hands. Horus was happy. He
had his hands back. Ra was satisfied knowing that order had been restored and chaos defeated.
Isis felt Horus had learned his lesson. The invaluable fishing
net had even been invented for Egypt.
Wait, we’re forgetting something aren’t we. You might be wondering what happened
to those fish.
I'll let Sobek Explain
Egyptians regarded many fish as creatures of chaos; animals that emerged from the disorder
of the first primordial waters. As a god who frequently caught and ate fish, Sobek in a
way was doing his part to establish order. This was one of the reasons fishermen and
the people of the nile worshipped Sobek. In a way, he was the patron god of the fisherman.
All of the marshes from the Nile River Valley, to the edge of the desert were lord Sobek’s
domain. He watched over these lands, as from his skin, they were his creation.
The Nile is arguably the very reason the Egyptian civilization even existed. They had great
respect for this invaluable body of water. All Egyptians relied upon it in some way,
so many also carried a certain level of respect for its creator Sobek. If a being could create
such a valuable resource for Egypt, surely he was an ally.
This is where the other side of the Sobek coin comes into play. A lot of Egyptians had
an incredibly hard time worshipping a god in the form of a crocodile; a scaled, savage,
blood thirsty predator.
Let’s keep it real you’d probably have a hard time worshipping such a ghastly creature
too. To me, these prehistoric monsters look like they were plucked out of the bloody dinosaur
age. The scales, their teeth, their dark beady eyes and their feet. Their feet! Not alone
here, large groups of Egyptians shared this sentiment. When the canals and rivers dried
up, crocodiles would go on a slaughterous rampage. They’d freely roam the fields and
eat whatever, or whoever would be unlucky enough to get in the way of their destructive
path. Many pets, friends and family members became the Snacks of Sobek. Worshipping what
such a deity represents is a tough sell. The reality was, a lot of people hated crocodiles
and weren't on board with any Sobek worship whatsoever. Countless crocodiles were diligently
Here’s something that made it even worse for Sobek. He was associated with arguably
the most evil Ancient Egyptian god Seth. Being associated with Seth was virtually a guarantee
that most Egyptians wouldn’t be very big fans. Any god that would kill and dismember
Osiris was an enemy.
Sobeks popularity did continue to grow however. Crocidilopolis steadily expanded, reaching
nearly 30,000 inhabitants at its peak. Sobeks reputation hit a whole new level when several
notable Pharaohs began to push a strong pro Sobek campaign. They were named in honor of
the contentious god and sent ample funding to his temples. The later and destructive
Greek Ptolemies built prominent Sobek temples. Apparently, the Ptolemy temples had a creepy
vibe. Something in them just felt off. We’ll talk about these nasty Ptolemies another time
though. Anyway, In case you’re curious, here’s some Egyptian Royalty linked to Sobek.
There’s of course Sobekneferu. Her name meant something like ‘the beauty of Sobek’
and there was Sobekhotep “Sobek is pleased” or “Sobek is happy”.
When a Pharaoh is named after a god, they commanded the associated divine being to be
venerated. When a pharaoh commands, you obey. As pharaohs propelled Sobek into popularity
he became more palatable. He rubbed shoulders with other beloved deities that were much
more widely worshipped. Being linked with gods such as Horus and Ra was a great look
for improving public perception.
With this being said, it’s easy to see why an erratic, terrifying creature like a crocodile
would be this divisive.
From almost the inception of Ancient Egypts myths, Sobek was put on a pedestal with the
mighty gods. Whilst there were many crocodile gods worshiped in Egypt, almost all of them
were derivative. When it came to powerful polarizing crocodile gods, there was truly
only one. Sobek, the creator of the nile. The crocodile god.
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