Ptah was an Egyptian creator god and god of craftsmen. His reign was from 3000 BCE, possibly earlier, to the end of ancient Egyptian history, about fourth century CE, with cult sanctuaries in Memphis and throughout the Nile valley. His main rival for seniority as creator god was Atum of Heliopolis within the Egyptian pantheon. His consort was the lion-goddess Sakhmet, and, by implication only, his son is Nefertum.
He is depicted in human form wearing a closely fitted robe with only the arms free. His most distinctive features are the invariable skull-cap exposing only his face and ears, and the was or rod of dominion which he holds, consisting of a staff surmounted by the ankh symbol of life. Otherwise hi is symbolized by the sacred animal, the bull.
According to the priestly genealogy compose in Memphis Ptah upstaged Atum as the “father of the gods.” The people was convinced that Ptah not only Atum but the whole Heliopolis pantheon by thinking and speaking the cosmos into existence. All life and matter came from the tongue of Ptah. In this cosmogony, Nun represents the amorphous primeval matter out of which Ptah generated himself as a bisexual entity, the maleness of which is Ptah-Nun and the femaleness Ptah-Naunet. Sometimes Ptah is called Kher-baker, meaning “he who is under his tree,” suggesting that he was syncretized with an older local tree god of Memphis whose symbol is the moringa tree.
Another vision of him came from his role as patron of craftsman of trades, but particularly trades like jewelry where his presence was denoted in art by dwarfish craftsmen busy at work. Ptah is envisaged as creating humankind from base metals. In Greco-Roman times he became identified with Hephaestus, the Greek god of the smiths.
Ptah god emerged from the primordial chaos, considered by the cosmogony of Memphis, from which he was originally, as the sovereign of the gods to have created the world through the word. It carries the titles of “Lord of magic”, “Lord of Darkness”, “Lord of Truth” and “Lord of snakes and fish”, which could be related to its creative function. He is the most important of the gods of Memphis and assumed functions of Ta-Tenen. The other name by which the city was known, Hikuptah, “Mansion of the soul of Ptah”, could give rise to the word Aigyptos, which Homer used to designate both the river and the country. It is said that he became famous for defeating the Assyrians by sending rats that invaded the enemy camp and gnawed the ropes of their bows.
Patron of arts and crafts, protecting stonemasons, sculptors, blacksmiths, craftsmen and artists and it was thought that he was the inventor of masonry; these works could be occupied by dwarves, who were under the tutelage of Ptah and his assistants: the Patecos. In Egypt the dwarves formed a well-known clan, mainly due to their dedication to goldsmithing, and as such they had as their patron Ptah, and on some occasions he was represented as a monstrous dwarf, which is why Heródoto confused him with the Pateco gods Phoenicians The term pateco comes precisely from Ptah. He was especially worshiped among the artisans of Deir el-Medina; during the Old Kingdom, more than one royal architect occupies place in his clergy; the high priest of Ptah was the supreme leader of the artisans and possessed the title of “Master builder” In the New Kingdom he becomes the guardian god of expeditions to the mines of Sinai. In Serabit el-Khadim, next to the turquoise mines, a speos was dedicated to him.
Its relation with the funeral world goes back to the Old Kingdom; he is considered the inventor of the opening ceremony of the mouth; by then he began to relate to Sokar, as Ptah-Sokar. It was later when he assumed the position of god creator. He united in his person the identity of Nun and that of Naunet. Occasionally it is called Ptah-Nun, identifying it with the primal Nun prior to all things, and being associated with Ta-Tenen, the hill on which the sun was born for the first time. Like Jnum, he created beings on his potter’s wheel. He was credited with great healing power. He was the titular god of the month of Paopi. In the XIX Dynasty he was the protector of the monarchy and the director of the party Sed. As a component of the Memphite triad, he was the husband of the goddess Sekhmet and father of Nefertum, or also of Imhotep; Paternity is also attributed to him.
It has a mummiform appearance, with a beard that sometimes has the shape of a wedge; he is wrapped in a shroud, with a skullcap on his head, the menat collar symbolizing fertility and stability and holding before him a scepter composed of the dyed pillar and the scepter uas, or a staff (heqat) and the flagellum (flail) . He is represented on a pedestal that symbolizes Maat to match his stature with the rest of the gods. In the New Kingdom, its cosmic characters include it in the cycle of the stars; and as Ptah-Tatenen places the solar disk on his head and “illuminates the world with his two eyes”. One of its epithets is “the one with the beautiful face”. In later times he was assimilated to Osiris, thus arising Ptah-Sokar-Osiris, funerary god, represented as Osiris, mummiform and with high feathers on his head; or with falcon or falcon head with white crown flanked by two feathers and at the base two twisted horizontal horns and the solar disk. The Greeks assimilated it to Hephaestus and the Romans to Vulcan. His animal manifestation was the bull Apis, in which he was incarnated. Karnak was an important center of his cult, where he had a temple within the precincts of Amon; Temples were also dedicated to him in Abydos and in Nubia; near the Valley of the Queens a sanctuary was excavated for him in which he was associated with Meretseger. His party was celebrated on the 22nd of the month of Meshir, next to Horus. His festival was on the 29th of the month of Mesore. Great characters of the V and VI Dynasties included this god in their name: Ptah-hotep, Ptah-Shepses, Kai-Ker-Ptah; as well as Mineptah, pharaoh of the XIX Dynasty.
According to the texts of the Menfite theology Ptah created the local gods, built the cities, established the territorial divisions, placed each god in the places where he is worshiped, fixed the offerings he was to receive and built his chapels
Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 211