Tatenen (also Ta-tenen, Tatjenen, Tathenen, Tanen, Tenen, Tanenu, and Tanuu) was the god of the primordial mound in ancient Egyptian religion. His name means risen land[1] or exalted earth,[2] as well as referring to the silt of the Nile. As a primeval chthonic deity,[3] Tatenen was identified with creation. He was an androgynous protector of nature from the Memphis area (then known as Men-nefer), the ancient capital of the Aneb-Hetch nome in Lower Egypt.

Tatenen represented the Earth and was born in the moment it rose from the watery chaos,[1] analogous to the primeval mound of the benben and mastaba and the later pyramids. He was seen as the source of "food and viands, divine offers, all good things",[4] as his realms were the deep regions beneath the earth "from which everything emerges", specifically including plants, vegetables, and minerals.[3] In the Third Intermediate Period hymn The Great Hymn of Khnum he is identified with the creator god Khnum, who created "all that is" on his potter's wheel.[5] This fortuity granted him the titles of both "creator and mother who gave birth to all gods" and "father of all the gods".[1][6] He also personified Egypt (due to his associations with rebirth and the Nile) and was an aspect of the earth-god Geb, as a source of artistic inspiration,[7] as well as assisting the dead in their journey to the afterlife.[8]

He is first attested in the Coffin Texts, where his name appears as Tanenu or Tanuu, 'the inert land', a name which characterizes him as a god of the primeval condition of the earth. Middle Kingdom texts provide the first examples of the form Tatenen.[3]

With a staff Tatenen repelled the evil serpent Apep from the Primeval Mound. He also had a magical mace dedicated to the falcon, venerated as "The Great White of the Earth Creator".[9] In one interpretation, Tatenen brought the Djed-pillars of stability to the country,[9] although this is more commonly attributed to Ptah.


Both Tatenen and Ptah were Memphite gods. Tatenen was the more ancient god, combined in the Old Kingdom with Ptah as Ptah-Tatenen, in their capacity as creator gods.[2] By the Nineteenth dynasty Ptah-Tatenen is his sole form, and he is worshiped as royal creator god. Ptah-Tatenen can be seen as father of the Ogdoad of Hermopolis, the eight gods who themselves embody the primeval elements from before creation.[3]


Tatenen's ambiguous portrayal may be a result of his being merged with Ptah. He was always in human form, usually seated with a pharaonic beard, wearing either an Atef-crown (as Ptah-Sokar) or, more commonly, a pair of ram's horns surmounted by a sun disk and two tall feathers.[3] As Tanenu or Tanuu, obviously a chthonic deity, he carried two snakes on his head.[3] He was both feminine and masculine, a consequence of his status as a primeval, creator deity.[1] Some depictions show Tatenen with a green complexion (face and arms), as he had connections to fertility and a chthonic association with plants.[2]


  1. 1 2 3 4 Tatenen. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  2. 1 2 3 The Egyptian Gods Archived 2009-05-03 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2008-10-21.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Tatenen Retrieved 2009-10-21.
  4. C. J. Bleeker. Historia Religionum I: Religions of the Past, p.68
  5. M. Lichtheim: Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol.3, p.113
  6. J. H. Breasted: Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Three, § 411
  7. J. H. Breasted: Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, § 91
  8. Carol Andrews: The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, spell 180
  9. 1 2 Intersexed and Androgynous Deities in Religion or Mythology. Retrieved 2009-10-21.
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