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Khonsu: Egyptian God of the Moon

Updated: Sep 13, 2022

Khonsu is the Egyptian god of the moon. Khonsu name means traveler in ancient Egyptian, as the moon appears to travel across the night sky.

The moon god is also a protector, a healer, and a patron of moon magic. He created all living things and has absolute control over both animals and evil spirits.

But Khonsu is more fierce than benevolent. Those who embrace his power must be fully committed to their goals.

Moon rising over Egyptian Pyramid
Moon rising over Egyptian Pyramid

Khonsu and the Egyptian Gods

Khonsu (also sometimes Khons or Chons) is principally known as a patron god of Thebes. He is one of the three gods in the important Theban triad. The other two are the hidden god Amun and the mother goddess Mut, who are considered Khonsu's parents. A major temple was built for Khonsu in the Karnak cult center at Thebes during the New Kingdom.

Within the Egyptian mythology of Thebes, Khonsu is considered a creator god. While the god Amun brought himself and all things within the universe into being, Khonsu, as a giant snake, fertilized the cosmic egg and created all living creatures. This story from Egyptian mythology is depicted on the walls of Khonsu's temple at Karnak.

But Khonsu is also associated with other ancient Egyptian gods. At Kom Ombo, he is described as the son of the crocodile god Sobek and the cow-horned goddess Hathor. At Edfu, he is described as the son of Osiris. This association with other gods and goddesses seems to reflect his importance as he is adopted into various religious pantheons throughout Egyptian history.

Amun, Mut, and Khonsu on Theban Temple
Amun, Mut, and Khonsu on Theban Temple

God of the Moon

Khonsu is an important deity for any practitioners who work moon magic or respect the phases of the moon in terms of their personal energy. He causes, controls, and creates time in his construction of the phases of the moon.

But while Khonsu is a moon god, he is not the moon itself. In ancient Egypt, the moon itself was called Iah. Khonsu is considered to enter the world as a young man at the start of each cycle of the moon and then leave as an old man. Iah is sometimes considered the iteration of Khonsu in his old man form and was increasingly absorbed by the more popular god.

But Iah is also often associated with Thoth, another Egyptian god of the moon also associated with knowledge, writing, and science. The segments of the moon were sometimes used as fraction symbols in mathematics.

Khonsu can be invoked at the start of rituals to call on the power of the moon to fortify your intentions.

Khonsu and Astronomy

Another god, Khenzu, mentioned in the Pyramid Texts in association with astrological calculations, is probably Khonsu, reinforcing the association between the moon and mathematics. But in the Egyptian calendar of lucky and unlucky days, the chaotic god Set is used to represent the moon.

Astronomy was very important in ancient Egypt. As well as being the basis for the Egyptian calendar, the pyramids were aligned towards the pole star, and the temple of Amun at Karnak was aligned to the rising mid-winter sun. Astrologically aligned stone circles survive at Nabta Playa, dating to the 5th millennium BC.

Astronomy was used to determine the appropriate timing for religious festivals, and temple books were often named based on the position of the sun, moon, and stars.

Egyptian astronomers would often construct star charts for individuals, and they were sometimes painted on the inside of coffins.

Egyptian astrology was largely absorbed into Greek astrology during the Greco-Roman period of Egypt, and later adopted Islamic astrology methods.

Modern "Egyptian astrology" is largely adapted to modern astrology, nevertheless, a basic summary is provided at the bottom of this article.

Egyptian Astronomical Chart
Egyptian Astronomical Chart

Khonsu the Fertility God

The cyclic nature of the moon made Khonsu one of the many gods and goddesses associated with fertility in ancient Egypt. The light of the crescent moon was thought to enable women and other animals to conceive. The moon also fills the world with fresh air following the heat of the day.

Khonsu can be called on for both fertility and cleansing rituals.

It is noteworthy that Khonsu is a male god. The lunar cycle and the female menstrual cycle are often linked, which is why so many moon deities are female, including the Greek goddess Selene and the Chinese goddess Chang'e. But Khonsu does have many male counterparts, including the Mesopotamian moon god Sin, the German moon god Mani, and the Japanese moon god Tsukuyomi.

Khonsu the Protector

Khonsu was also known by the epithets the Embracer, Pathfinder, and Defender, all of which reflect his role as a protective deity. He was particularly associated with the protection of those who work or travel at night.

As the creator of all living creatures, Khonsu also has control over wild animals. This belief may also recognize that the phases of the moon impact hormones and, therefore, the activity of animals.

But while Khonsu may be a protector, he s not always benevolent. In the Pyramid Texts, he is described as helping a recently deceased king to kill the other gods. In the Coffin Texts, Khonsu is also described as nourishing himself on human hearts.

This suggests that he is not a god to be approached lightly. Once you start on a journey with him, there is no turning back!

Egyptian Statue of Khonsu
Egyptian Statue of Khonsu

Khonsu the Healer

Khonsu was often called on as a healer. This stems from the fact that he had complete control over all the evil spirits that inhabit the earth, sea, sky, and air. These spirits can invade the bodies of humans and make them sick. But Khonsu can call them off. Ramasses II approached Khonus for help to drive an evil spirit out of a foreign princess.

Khonsu's fame as a healer extended outside Egypt. One stele describes how a princess of Bekhten was instantaneously healed by an image of Khonsu. Pharaoh Ptolemy IV claimed to have been healed by Khonsu and described himself as "Beloved of Khonsu Who Protects His Majesty and Drives Away Evil Spirits".

Khonsu can often be called on for healing rituals, especially when the healing requires dealing with something that has invaded the body, such as a virus.

Symbology of Khonsu

Khonsu is usually depicted as a mummy with green skin like Osiris. He has a sidelock of hair, which is s symbol of childhood in Egypt. This is probably less to do with being the son of Amun, and more the idea of Khonsu entering the world as a youth at the new moon and leaving as an old man at the end of the lunar cycle.

He would usually wear a crown that holds the full moon disk in a crescent moon. It also featured the Egyptian uraeus, which is a rearing cobra. He wears a loose necklace with a crescent-shaped pectoral and counterpose in the shape of an inverted keyhole.

Like many of the gods, Khonsu often holds the crook and flail of kinship. This associates him with gods such as Osiris and Horus. He also sometimes appears with a Falcon’s head, like Horus.

Representations of Khonsu
Representations of Khonsu

Khonsu and the Neter

Some interpretations of Egyptian religion suggest that it is, in fact, monotheistic, with one great and powerful life force behind all creation and life, the Neter. The gods are manifestations of different elements of that force, given names and attributes by humans in order for them to better interact and engage with those forces since the great force itself is too vast and complex.

This helps explain why there is no need for strict lines to be drawn between the gods and why there is so much overlap between their domains. Each is a tool for understanding and engaging with divine power. Perhaps the collective belief in each deity is what makes them gods, much like in Terry Pratchett’s Small Gods.

Moon Knight

Khonsu is the inspiration for Marvel's hero Moon Knight, an Egyptian god of the moon who protects travelers at night. Khonsu himself is unable to manifest in the human plane, so he chooses others to be his avatar.

Marvel's Moon Knight based on Khonsu
Marvel's Moon Knight based on Khonsu

Egyptian Astrology

The Nile (January 1-7, June 19-28, September 1-7, November 18-26)

The only non-deity zodiac sign, the Nile marks the beginning and the source of all things. People born under this sign are passionate and impulsive.

Amun (January 8-21, February 1-11)

Amun is the god of creation, and people born under this sign can see potential where others see little. They tend to be optimistic and natural leaders.

Mut (January 22-31, September 8-22)

The consort of Amun and the mother of Khonsu, Mut, and the people born under her sign are nurturing but practical and always look for the best way to get things done.

Geb (February 12-29, August 20-31)

God of earth, people born under this sign are deeply sensitive to the flow of energy around them. They know how to go with the flow without creating waves.

Osiris (March 1-10, November 27-December 18)

Osiris is the god of the underworld and people born under this sign can be pessimistic. But they are also adaptable to change.

Isis (March 11-31, October 18-29, December 19-31)

Isis is the symbol of the feminine and love. People born under this sign are open and giving but also restless and always seeking change.

Thoth (April 1-19, November 8-17)

As well as being a god of the moon, Thoth is the god of knowledge and learning. People born under this sign tend to be analytical, diligent, and committed.

Horus (April 20-May 7, August 12-19)

Horus is the god of the sky, and people born under this sign are natural charismatic leaders, but they also work hard and know how to take responsibility.

Anubis (May 8-27, June 29-July 13)

Anubis is a guardian of the underworld and the dead, and people born under this sign can be introverted. They often put up armor to protect their deep emotions.

Seth (May 28-June 18, September 28-October 2)

Seth is the god of chaos, and people born under this sign tend to have a hot temper and a spontaneous approach to life. They are natural rebels.

Bastet (July 14-28, September 23-27, October 3-17)

Bastet is the cat goddess of pleasure. People born under this sign are charming and charismatic and tend to be people pleasers.

Sekhmet (July 29-August 11, October 30-November 7)

Lioness goddess of war, people born under Sekhmet have high expectations of themselves and others.

Egyptian Astrology
Egyptian Astrology

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