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. A.G.H.


Jordan, Michael, Encyclopedia of Gods, New York, Facts On File, Inc. 1993, p. 211