I am he who dwelleth amid his terrors. I am Sobek, and I seize my prey like a ravening beast. I am the great Fish which is in Kamui. I am the Lord to whom bowings and prostrations are made in Sekhem. I am the great Lord of the Nile. I am the great Lord of the Nile. I am Sobek. — This is supposedly a brief by the crocodile god sobek, from the Book of the Dead……
In ancient Egyptian religion, Sobek is the god of crocodiles and the Nile, (which was believed to have come from his sweat).
He who gave life to vegetation and fertility to the land. He who was believed to have risen from the primeval waters of Nun to create the world. He who laid his eggs on the bank of the waters, starting the creation process. And He made possible the rebirth of the deceased into the after life.
This deity was also believed to be the god of Pharaonic power, strength, virility, fertility, and military prowess.
Although some myths tell that Sobek is as old as the world itself and is attributed to the creator of the world, other accounts say that sobek was not a primordial god.
These accounts say that Sobek’s father is set, the god of thunder, storms, war and chaos. While his mother was Neith, the Goddess of war, hunting and wisdom.
These same accounts added that sobek had a family of his own. His wife was Renenutet, the Goddess of Plenty and brought good fortune to the ancient Egyptians. And his sons were Khonum and Khonsu.
In addition to his wife, Sobek had goddesses – Hathor, Heqet, and Taweret, as his consorts.
Sobek was seen as a protective deity with apotropaic qualities, invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile.
He is known by other names, such as, Sebek, Sochet, Sobk, and Sobki.
Sobek is primarily associated with the Nile crocodile or the West African crocodile. He often appears either in his full crocodile form or as a human with a crocodile head.
Sobek is often shown wearing a plumed headdress with a horned sun disk or the atef crown. In his hands he is shown to carry a sceptre and the ankh sign of life.
Sobek controlled the waters and the fertility of the soil. Thus, he is known under several titles, such as “Lord of the Waters,” “The Rager,” and “Lord of Faiyum”.
Sobek particularly gained recognition in the Middle Kingdom (around 2055 to1650 BC), under the rulership of the Twelfth Dynasty pharaoh Amenemhat3.
Amenemhat 3 had taken an interest in the Faiyum of Egypt, which was a region heavily associated with Sobek. Thus, the Nile god gained prominence.
Sobek’s initial entity was fused with and dependent on Horus, under the name Sobek-horus, which is the fusion of sobek and Horus.
From that, he evolved into being dependent on Egypt’s primary sun god Ra, under the name Sobek-Ra, q fusion of Sobek and Ra.
And from that, through the expansion of his cults and a collective effort to make him the subject of religious doctrine, sobek’s entity evolved into being recognized as a fully independent god of the Nile.
Initial myths portrayed Sobek as a dark god who had to be appeased to give the people his protection against crocodiles.
Sobek was an aggressive and animalistic deity who lived up to the vicious reputation of the large and violent Nile crocodile he is.
During that time, he was a god whom people reviled. He was given the names, “he who loves robbery”, “he who eats while he also mates”, and “pointed of teeth”.
These old versions of the myth showed as a god believed to attack the deceased in the underworld. He was a friend to set, and an enemy to the other gods.
There was one tale of Osiris, where Isis had to place Horus into a little boat of papyrus reeds to protect him from a menacing Sobek.
In that tale, Sobek ate the last piece of Osiris when Set scattered his pieces throughout Egypt. The crocodile god was punished for this crime, by getting his tongue cut off. However, later myths began to recognize the benign side of Sobek. They began to portray him as a benevolent and protective god.
And In contrast to that first old tale of Osiris, the later myths explained that it was actually, Sobek who carried the dead body of Osiris to the bank of the Nile on his back, to protect him against set.
Sobek became associated with Isis, as a healer of the deceased Osiris, (following Osiris’ violent murder by Set in the central Osiris myth).
Thence, the Egyptians venerated Sobek as one who restored sight to the dead, who revived their senses and who protected them from Set- the attacker of those souls that traveled through the land of the dead.
Yes, Sobek is still known for his viciousness till today, but this time, his fierceness is meant to ward off evil while simultaneously defending the innocent.
In times of need, he gives the pharaoh strength and fortitude so that he may overcome all obstacles. He also protects the pharaoh from all harm, especially evil magic. Some areas of ancient Egypt raised crocodiles on religious grounds, as living incarnations of Sobek.
These Ancient Egyptians kept the crocodiles in pools and temples, fed them delicacies and bejeweled them.
Upon their deaths, they were mummified in a grand style as sacred, but earthly, manifestations of their patron god sobek.
This practice was practice was particularly popular at the main temple of Crocodilopolis.
And these acts explain why Mummified crocodiles of all ages have been found in Egyptian tombs, including eggs with fetuses.
It is important to note that not all the Egyptians loved the crocodile god sobek, and his sacred animal, the Nile crocodile.
So while some people tamed crocodiles and worshiped them as the god Sobek himself, other people reviled the Nile god and mercilessly killed crocodiles because of their vicious and dangerous nature.
Thus, Sobek was considered as an ambivalent god.
Nevertheless, wether sobek was loved or reviled, one thing was certain. And that is that all the people of ancient Egypt greatly feared the power and wrath of the crocodile god.
Sobek’s temples were found scattered throughout the land of Egypt, but the Faiyum area in Lower Egypt, popularly known as crocodilopolis, was his sacred area.
The town had a temple where a tame, sacred crocodile was kept by himself in a lake. The crocodile was hand fed by the priests, supposedly for the awe and amusement of ancient tourists.
There was equally another popular temple at Medinet Madi which was dedicated to Sobek, the goddess Renenutet and Horus.