Thoth’s name is from t*kh*n, which means “to search for,” and “to find.” He is The Measurer, after the weights used in weighing scales. The ib-heart is also part of his hieroglyphic spelling to indicate that he is the measurer inside the mind. Thoth is thought. He is reason. He is the archetype of the human intellect, of mind, of logic and of rationale. Thoth is science. Thoth is the genius of the Paut Natures. He is your mind.
"Thoth and Ma'at record your moments every day.”
Thoth’s hieroglyph is the ibis-bird and he is the ibis-headed Nayture. The gesture of the ibis-bird searching for food is the same gesture of the wrist and hand made by scribes. Thoth is the scribe of the Naytures and the Nayture of scribes. Pen, paper, and ink are his tools — which means today he is the Heart of the Computer. Egyptians saw intellect as a gift of the Naytures. “I am your writing tablet,” was a prayer to Thoth. “I bring you your ink.”
Thoth is credited with the composition of the text of the Book of the Dead, which comprises a portion of the murals of every tomb and is the substance of spiritual training. “Thoth wrote this with his own fingers” is inscribed at the beginning. The actual title of The Book of The Dead is Por Im Hru, “Emerging Awake.” The emergence is into the next life of eternity. This vital spiritual training was considered to be in the mind, in thought, in learning. The premises were considered to be logical thought. It is not Osiris, the so-called king of the dead, who writes the instructions on dying correctly.
Thoth’s main crown is the globe of the full Moon framed by the two crescent Moons. The Measurer of the Moon’s cycles was the first scientist of humankind, seeding the beginnings of astronomy, astrology, science, and mathematics. He created the calendar still in use by the modern world. The deeper association of Thoth with the Moon is in the metaphor of sunlight reflected. Intellect and dreaming are both forms of perception, yet they are not consciousness. You can be conscious of thinking, yet there are also unconscious thoughts. Who is thinking your thoughts? This is why Thoth is only the scribe of the Naytures. Knowledge, even wisdom, can be put on paper. Consciousness cannot. Thoth is the navigator of your Sunship, not the captain. Who chooses where your ship is going? Rae Horus is Captain; consciousness is king — that’s you. You decide the course.
Thoth is the “Great Judge” of the Paut Naytures. He is the arbiter of Those Two, the Two Rivals, Horus and Suty. The Naytures accept the judgment of Thoth, of thought. Thoth is your final judge, weighing your heart for the next life. What you think of yourself — truly think of yourself — will determine what you take with you into eternity, into “the millions of years.”
There is no story of the birth of Thoth. He is one of the cosmic forces arising with the fabric of creation. At Thoth’s main center of worship, Khemmenu, “The Town of the Eight Ones,” (Hermopolis) they had a creation story with surprisingly modern logic. It begins with Thoth as the chief of “The Eight Ones,” four pairs of eternal opposites. Each pair is a male and female couple, since this represents the prime, most comprehensible gesture of opposite ends of the same continuum, the union of opposites. These figures are shown kneeling, since they represent the latent or potential forms of the energies involved. The male have serpent heads, and the female have frog or cat heads.
The first couple are Nu and Nut, metaphors for the primeval energy and substance of the universe. They are the E and the M in E=MC squared.
The next pair of opposites is Hehu and Hehut, personifications of the infinities of space-time. These terms are also translated as “the millions of years.”
The third pair is Kekui and Kekuit, who are darkness. This is the darkness, also, of the infinity of outer space. The Egyptian concept represents the inertness of the cosmos, prepared to accept the passage of light. We have just discovered "dark matter" and "dark energy" to be vital components of the universe.
The fourth couple is Kherh and Kherhet, a concept much more Egyptian than modern. These two are primary metaphors for the Dual Dimensions or Dual Realities. The words mean "One Who Is Beyond," a term used to describe the deceased in the phrase, “Beyond the Far Horizon.”
This metaphor of the absolute nature of inner and outer realities is a cornerstone of Egyptian philosophy. The further clue is that, in later generations, the name One Who is Beyond is sometimes replaced with the name One Who is Hidden. The interaction of these pairs of cosmic forces raised the first mound of matter upon which Rae-consciousness awakened, initiating the creation of the entire Cosmos and all the creatures, including us.
The orchestrator of this symphonic event of creation, “the ruling of eight,” is Thoth, metaphor for knowledge and thought. Every text, every written word in ancient Egypt was believed to be inspired by Rae and recorded by Thoth. Considering the deeply human roots of Thoth’s source, it can hardly be different today. We are more dependent on Thoth than ever before in history. Egypt, even at its peak, had fewer citizens than the state of California, USA. The seven-plus billion people of Earth’s global society need every ounce of our intellect, individual and collective, to deal with the issues of Earth and humankind’s survival.
Egyptologists have an ongoing debate on the issue of literacy in ancient Egypt. Evidence from archaeological material is circumstantial. There are no written records of how many citizens could read. We cannot even be certain how many citizens there were at any given time — within the framework of given evidence, we have room to speculate.
We need to look at the question itself. Literacy today is thought of in terms of being able to “read and write.” Modern minds intermingle the skills because we learn to write as part of learning to read. Learning one reinforces the other. We can accept being unable to read and write. The idea of being able to read, yet unable to write, is unfamiliar to us.
The more likely scenario is one in which a fair percentage of people could read, even if only at a rudimentary level. There was, after all, so much writing in their world. Writing was part of every decorative scheme. Long texts were carved onto walls for everyone to see, whole life stories, adventures in battles and cosmology, the loves and quarrels of the eternal figures and celebrities of their world. Hieroglyphs were used as art motifs for every medium in which they worked. Why cover things with writing if no one could read?
Children certainly asked questions about the writing on the great pylons, walls and columns of the temples. “Mother, what are those little pictures?” Children would naturally speculate about the images with adults and with other children. The language in its hieroglyphic forms is not that difficult to read. Learning to write it, however, does take more concentrated effort and a certain amount of natural dexterity as well as an artistic bent.
Scribes had their own scripts, hieratic and demotic, ancient analogs to modern secretarial shorthand. These simplified the sacred hieroglyphs. Private correspondence and accounting records were often written in these. Egyptian hieroglyphs are story and pictures in one gesture. Their word for “to write” was also their word for “to paint.” The arts were considered two aspects of a single talent. The pictures are part of the text. The pictures are part of the story. Egypt produced the first ever illustrated texts. Egyptian citizens had access to the non-verbal, associative components of the written word, as well as the spoken words they represented.
Even today, we feel the stimulation of those curious little animals and mini-objects. The children of Egypt, no doubt, felt the same attraction. Some would be better at reading than others; that is true to this day, even though literacy is considered a basic human right and a primary social necessity.
The other evidence of their reading skills is the multi-layered and highly imaginative use of metaphor in their art and writings, especially in their spiritual texts. These complex and enigmatic images have long been the source of Egypt’s reputation for mystical, magical values. They have also baffled many readers and translators. Such elaborate metaphorical imagery requires a shared database of story, language and idiom. This database is shared through oral tradition and has its basis in daily conversation. Clearly, these people talked to each other, freely and in great detail. This atmosphere of an ongoing talk fest pervades their artwork at every level, from the beginning of their empire to its end. Their literature is filled with dialog. Their capacity for cooperative work was grounded in this love of conversation and was the foundation of their skill at organization. Cooperation requires communication. The greater the skill at communication, the greater the capacity for cooperation. The Great Pyramids were built as much by cooperation as by engineering, and they stand as an enduring symbol of “team spirit.”
It is more certain that most officials, even minor officials, could read, even if they could not write. The man in charge might have scribes following him around to write everything down for him, nonetheless, how long would he remain “the man in charge” if he did not know exactly what his scribes were writing? He might never hold a stylus in his hand, but he would have to know what was in the reports he sent on to his boss. After all, that was his signet ring on the wax seal.
Egyptians were meticulous record-keepers and accountants. There were many reasons why you would need to read, without ever needing to write anything down yourself.
The reputation of the Egyptian written language is that there are no vowels. This is not entirely the case. The confusion over the exact pronunciation of vowel-sounds exists, but there were, in fact, individual hieroglyphs for vowels. There was more than one way to spell a word.
Single phonemes did exist, but double and triple phonemes were in frequent use. These signs do not reveal their internal vowel components. Their use arose from the complexity of the hieroglyphs — you can paint a single hieroglyph faster than two or three. This system also made it easier to indulge in visual puns and word games.
Hieroglyphic writing uses both pictures and sounds, so that the information is accessed by both sides of the brain, the visual and the verbal. In this way, Egyptian literature reaches into the mythological, pre-verbal and non-verbal levels of our perception, even as it informs, delights, puzzles, intrigues and mystifies our conscious minds.
The rediscovery of the once-dead language of the Nile is one of the most fascinating stories of modern Egyptology, involving the dedicated work of thousands of people over the centuries since Champollion’s seminal work. The actual pronunciation of those words is still a matter of debate among scholars of several disciplines. Their work is to be lauded and following the course of this debate is a fascinating study on its own.
Osiris belongs to us, in a fashion, more than he does to ancient Egypt, at least by that name. This is also true for Isis, Horus, Thoth and the rest. The pronunciation of a name, however, is only the resonance of an age, an era, a generation. This does not contradict the function of the metaphors of the Throne of the Eye, the bonds of love, unique identity, human intellect, etc. We flesh out these names with the majesty and awe of the Egyptian vision, revitalizing the language between you and yourself.