|Thoth - Egyptian God of Writing - Medinet Habu|
Uniquely in the ancient world however, during Ancient Egypt’s New Kingdom we do have a source of texts written by ordinary people. The inhabitants of the workmen’s village at Deir el-Medina were literate as they were responsible for digging out and carving or painting the tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings and decorating the walls of their mortuary temples. The villagers would use flakes of limestone called ostraca and scraps of papyrus to record lists, keep accounts, send letters to friends and loved ones and generally record the gossip of the day. Egyptologists have gleaned a great deal of information about the lives of these workmen and their families from these writings and it is perhaps the earliest instance where we can follow the goings on and lives of ordinary folk.
Perhaps one of the oldest deities associated with writers and writing, who is still worshipped by millions today, is the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha. His mother was the goddess Parvati who created her divine son by smearing her body with a paste made from herbs and sandalwood. She scraped this paste off her body, moulded it into the shape of a young boy and breathed her creation into life. Parvati then went to bathe and asked her new son to keep watch over the house. While she was bathing, her husband the Lord Shiva returned home and fell into a rage when he was denied entry to his own home by an unknown boy. His outrage was so great that he struck the boy’s head clean off his shoulders. When Parvati emerged from her bath she was grief stricken when she found out what had happened to her beloved child. Such was her distress that Lord Shiva sent his retinue out to seek a new head for the body.
The first creature they came upon was an elephant, so they decapitated the animal and brought the head back to Lord Shiva, who then revived the boy by placing the head on his shoulders. But Parvati was still not consoled as she feared that Ganesha would be laughed at and disrespected by gods and mortals alike because of his elephant features. To appease his wife, Lord Shiva blessed Ganesha by proclaiming him to be the ‘Remover of Obstacles’ and that henceforth if you wanted success you had to offer up a prayer to the elephant-headed deity before starting projects and quests.
Thoth at Medinet Habu - Own Image Hermes Trismegistus image Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Ganesha Image Khushi Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic