Ptah was a creator god and patron of craftsmen, metalworkers, carpenters, shipbuilders, and architects. According to inscriptions on the Shabaka Stone, which date to the Old Kingdom, “Ptah, before all other things and, by his will, thought the world into existence. It was first conceived by Thought, and realized by the Word.” Ptah conceived the world by the thought of his heart and gave life through the magic of his word. His word included the creation of nature, fauna, and flora; he also was involved with the preservation of the world and the stability of royal functions.
Ptah’s form was at first concealed, he was invisible and his creative force was all powerful. Later he was shown as a man with green skin (representing an Earth deity) holding a scepter with three powerful symbols of ancient Egypt: Was (Power), Ankh (Life), and Djed (Stability). He bestowed these three qualities on Egyptian pharaohs, who were often crowned in his Grand Temple at Memphis, about 20 miles (32 km) south of Giza.
There are several very long hymns to Ptah. The following hymn seems to sum up all his qualities and how much he was respected and honored by the ancient Egyptians.
Hymn to Ptah
Hail to thee, Ptah-tanen, great god who concealeth his form …
Thou art watching when at rest
The father of all fathers and of all gods …
Watcher, who traversest the endless ages of eternity.
The heaven was yet uncreated,
Uncreated was the earth,
The water flowed not;
Thou hast put together the earth,
Thou hast united thy limbs,
Thou hast reckoned thy members;
What thou hast found apart,
Thou hast put into its place;
God, architect of the world,
Thou art without a father,
Begotten by thine own becoming;
Thou art without a mother,
Being born through repetition of thyself.
Thou drivest away the darkness by the beams of thine eyes.
Thou ascendest into the zenith of heaven,
And thou comest down even as thou hast risen.
When thou art a dweller in the infernal world,
Thy knees are above the earth,
And thine head is in the upper sky.
Thou sustainest the substances which thou hast made.
It is by thine own strength that thou movest;
Thou art raised up by the might of thine own arms.
Thou weighest upon thyself,
Kept firm by the mystery which is in thee.
The roaring of thy voice is in the cloud;
Thy breath is on the mountain-tops;
The waters of the inundation cover the lofty trees of every region.
Heaven and earth obey the commands which thou hast given;
They travel by the road which thou hast laid down for them;
They transgress not the path which thou hast prescribed to them,
And which thou hast opened to them,
Thou restest, and it is night;
When thine eyes shine forth, we are illuminated.
O let us give glory to the God who hath raised up the sky,
And who causeth his disk to float over the bosom of Nut,
Who hath made the gods and men and all their generations,
Who hath made all lands and countries, and the great sea,
In his name of Let-the-earth-be! ….
The babe who is brought forth daily,
The ancient one who has reached the limits of time,
The immovable one who traverses every path,
The height which cannot be attained.
Translated by: P. Le Page Renouf
Renouf, Peter Le Page. Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by the Religion of Ancient Egypt: Delivered in May and June, 1879.
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