Point to a dozen of ancient Egypt’s most famous gods, and I will know Their Kemetic and Greco-Roman names and the basic mythological background of each, as well as Their characteristics and attributes. Tell me it’s one of the big festivals honoring one of those gods, and I will probably shrug and continue on my merry little way with no more than a respectful nod and libation. Tell me it’s the Day of Sepa or the Feast of Menhuy, which was yesterday, and I will go pawing through all my books to learn more.
In other words, I have a thing for obscure gods.
Menhuy (or Menhu, or possibly even Menew) is the Slaughterer. Egyptologist Tamara Siuda describes him as a protective form of Amun, the Hidden One. In Wilkinson’s The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, the name Menew is cited as a form of Bes, a popular apotropaic dwarfish deity, still with the meaning of Slaughterer. The main reference I can find to Menhu is of a tomb inscription from the Papyrus of Ani that states “Hidden in form, given of Menhu” is the name of the tomb. Menhu(y) is also referenced in the inscription of Hor-nefer as a falcon-headed god from Esna, which may link Him to Amun Who is in turn linked to Ra-Horuakhety, typically depicted as falcon-headed.
Finding out all of that stoked me, just as doing the initial research on Sepa or on Neper was intriguing and exciting. But the idea of making this post about the Opet Festival (a major celebration of Amun and Mut) didn’t light a fire under me, even though it would have involved the same amount of research. I have very little “connection” to most of the more well-known Netjeru, barring Sekhmet and Nebt-het. On the other hand, I am so enthralled by little-known deities that I have tentatively set up the framework for a year’s worth of research and personal writing on some 70+ obscure Netjeru… which would likely turn into a small book of cited information and modern litanies, hekau, and prayers.
My partner, who holds a biology degree, tells me that there is some small percentage of each population (human and animal alike) that is predisposed to be more drawn to novelty than to familiarity and safety. It helps keep the gene pool fresh and offers a beneficial mutation the opportunity to survive and thrive. Maybe one bird is a bizarre color, but perhaps that color is a better adaptation to its changing surroundings than its species’ usual color, and if another bird is willing to chance its reproductive future on the oddball, a new strain of successful babies can be born and spread that useful gene around. And while I have not had my genome mapped, I can look at myself and at my intense, inexplicable interest in the left-of-center ideas/people/looks/hobbies/etc and see that pattern reflected.
So I love obscure gods. Mainstream deities are challenging to me; I find it difficult to want to connect, with some few exceptions. This goes for plenty of other things in my life, making me something of an unintentional hipster with my insistence on originality and rarity. I also don’t like the spotlight, so I shy away from things with too much attention, lest I also get seen and noticed; that part’s probably an innate (but unnecessary) survival mechanism.
I’m not the only fan of the unknown, of course. Some of my fellow Kemetics pay a lot of attention to lesser-known Names, such as Wenut (a hare goddess) and Benebdjedet (a ram-headed god). I love seeing hidden gods raised up and dusted off; it elicits such a thrill of glee down my spine.
After all, the most widespread gods already have plenty of worshippers and researchers—They don’t need me that much. But if I and my books and my love can make a difference to a little-known Netjeru by offering my time, attention, and words, then I am elated and satisfied.