The Blue Lotus and Nefertem

The ancient Egyptians regarded the blue lotus (or blue water lily) as a symbol of creation. In ancient Egyptian mythology, the blue lotus was the first object to emerge out of chaos. It was associated with the sun god, Re, due to the way that it would rise out of the water over a short period of time, and flower in the morning to the late afternoon, before sinking below the surface again. As the lotus flower opened and closed each day, it was said that the petals of the lotus blossom enfolded Re when he returned to it each night.

The blue lotus flower was featured extensively in the art of ancient Egypt. In various works of art, the lotus is seen held in the hand of a god or human, serving as a border to outline a section of the artwork, or opening to reveal various gods or humans. The ancient Egyptians greatly valued the sacred lotus in religious ceremonies and funerals. For example, the blue lotus was found scattered over Pharaoh Tutankhamen’s body when the Pharaoh’s tomb was opened in 1922.

Some historians thought the blue lotus was purely a symbolic flower, however there is reason to believe that ancient Egyptians used it to induce an ecstatic state in religious ceremonies as well as being widely used in medicinal remedies.

Blue Lotus
Blue Lotus

Nefertem through his associations with the primeval blue lotus and healing, personified the functions of the blue lotus flower in the ancient Egyptian religion. His name has been translated as Perfection, Beautiful Being, Tem the Younger, or Beautiful Beginning, as he was the first incarnation of Tem or Atum at Heliopolis. He is generally shown with a large lotus blossom as his crown or as a small child crouched on a blue lotus flower.As the patron god of fragrances and healing he presided over the art of medicine. There are remedies in various medical papyrus from ancient Egypt that feature mixtures including the blue lotus and lotus oil.

Nefertem and the properties of the blue lotus, as well as other plants, were part of Heku (or Heka), the power of magic.

Nefertem is referred to in Coffin Text 261: “To me belonged the universe before you gods had come into being. You have come afterwards because I am Heku.