Sokar was a protective falcon god of Memphis, originally an agricultural deity, and one of the oldest gods of ancient Egypt. He evolved from a god of agriculture and growth to the god of craftsmanship. Ultimately, Sokar came to be a God of the Necropolis and rose to considerable importance as an afterlife deity. The Pyramid Texts frequently mention the Sokar in an afterlife context where the deceased king is said to be raised into the “henu barque” of Sokar.
Sokar was known by the epithet “He of Rosetau.” It is believed that this refers to the area around the Giza pyramids, also related more generally to any necropolis and to the entrance to the underworld. He is known as the “lord of the mysterious region” (the underworld) and the “great god with his two wings opened.” In time, he became associated with Ptah and then Osiris to eventually combine by the Middle Kingdom (2040-1782 BCE) into Ptah-Sokar-Osiris presiding over the afterlife.
The meaning of Sokar’s name is unclear. One theory is that his name is derived from and based on the term sk r, “cleaning of the mouth,” found in Coffin Text Spell 816. This is used in the context of the Opening of the Mouth ceremony in which Sokar plays a role. Another theory is that the god’s name comes from one of the Pyramid Texts where Osiris said, as a cry of help to Aset, his wife and sister, “Sy k ri”, hurry to me.
During the Old Kingdom he was generally depicted on a throne with the Was (power) scepter and an Ankh. By the New Kingdom he was depicted as a hawk-headed mummy with a Was scepter, a flail, and a crook. Sokar usually stands on a funerary mound (which may represent the primeval mound) and wears a sun disc, cows horns and the regal cobras. As a falcon deity, he is often related to Horus, and wears the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.
Sokar is mentioned regularly in the Pyramid Texts in his own right, but from the Middle Kingdom he was often merged with Ptah. Ptah-Sokar represented the soil and its power to create life. As Ptah was considered to be the patron of artisans, Sokar became specifically the patron of goldsmiths. Also during the Middle Kingdom Sokar became associated with Osiris as the composite deity, Ptah-Sokar-Osiris. This composite deity represented the three aspects of the universe: creation, stability, and death. In the New Kingdom Period, in the Book of the Dead, Sokar unites the forms of Osiris and Ptah. Ptah-Sokar became Sokar-Osiris (the nocturnal sun during the fourth and fifth hours of the Amduat).
The Amduat describes the underworld in terms of the journey of Re through twelve hours (or stages) of the night. Sokar inhabits hours four and five of the underworld. During the fourth hour, Re enters the desert of Rostau. The river becomes a dry bed littered with dangerous snakes and the path is repeatedly blocked by huge doors. Re’s barque is transformed into a fire breathing snake and Thoth and Sokar protect the sun god as he makes his slow progress through the desert. In the fifth hour, the sun must pass over the cave of Sokar. Inside the cave, Sokar restrains the winged serpent Apep, representing chaos. The cave of Sokar is guarded by Aker lions, one is called Duaj (“yesterday”) and the other is Sefer (“tomorrow”).
The descriptions of the desert journey through the Amduat have led some to speculate that Rostau was located near Gebel Gibli, close to the Great Pyramid, and an actual Temple or Tomb of Sokar may be found under the sand close to a large mysterious gateway and enclosure wall known as the “Wall of the Crow.”
On January 27, according to the Ancient Egyptian calendar, the Feast of Sokar in Rostau before that of Onnophris [A form of Asar/Osiris] in Abydos is celebrated.