The Khonsu’s of Karnak: a priestly family of ancient Thebes

This is the well preserved/conserved pylon gate of the temple of Khonsu, who along with his father Amun & mother Mut comprise what’s known as the Theban triad of gods. This lovely temples sits within the greater precinct or temenos of Karnak, near to the southern gateway.


Like many Egyptian temples, there are official inscriptions, but also of interest is the unofficial graphiti left by ancient priests which are to be found concentrated on the roof area.

This diagram shows the location for some of the hundreds of graphito found there:


Source:  Jacquet-Gordon, HelenThe graffiti on the Khonsu Temple roof at Karnak : a manifestation of personal pietyChicago, Ill. : Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago 2003

One of these I particularly like because it belong to a priest of Khonsu, who by a process of modern hyper-reality, was the inspiration for Aleister Crowley (1975-1947) the famous neo-pagan practitioner. Crowley was inspired by seeing the Ankhef-n-Khonsu funeral stele in a Cairo museum. It belonged to a priest in Thebes during the 23rd dynasty who in turn left his mark on the temple roof:


The text of the above Graphiti 85, written over the image of his sandaled feet reads “Made by the wab priest of Khonsu, Ankhef-n-Khonsu.”

The evidence of these graphiti tells us that priests spent many hours on the roof between duties, perhaps sleeping there during the night, socializing but also when not called, witnessing the grand processions as they wound their way onto the ceremonial causeway that links this great temple complex with the temple of Amun a few miles south of here. Some of the graphiti show these procession where the ceremonial barques were paraded.

Not only was Ankhef-n-Khonsu a priest attached to this temple, several other members of his family also did service. His father and his son left similar graphiti. Hence:

His son: Shedsu-Khonsu

Father: Khonsu-Hat

Brother: Pamani-Khonsu-en-Shuief

Grand father: Pahenu-Khonsu

Graphiti 104 is a second inscription left by Ankhef-n-Khonsu.  There are several unusual features to this inscription. It apparently shows Ankhef together with another person. At first I thought this might be his son but the text above the image of the sandaled feet contains only Ankhef’s name: “made by the god’s father of Khonsu, Ankhef-n-Khonsu. ”


If you look carefully you can see that the sandals on the right are more realistic, apart from indicating six toes! The picture on the left is altogether less competent, childlike even. The outline is shaky, the heals squared off and the arrangement of the sandal strap also seems wrong. Assuming that they were drawn by the same person, what is the reason for the duplication?


Did Ankhef-n-Khonsu had some kind of brain storm that that caused him to create this additional set of footprints.  To me he does seem to be indicating a second, perhaps recessive personality. Could it be that this is some kind of spiritual double or alter-ego ? People who theorize about the dual nature of our consciousness say there is dominant conscious persona is combined with a passive inner voice. This would be in line with the way the ancient Egyptians also conceptualized their consciousness.  This passive recessive self is also said to be childlike & non verbal.

This unique graphiti may well be a record of Ankhef-n-Khonsu’s experiences of his other spiritual self, variously called his “Akh” or “Ba”. So all the more intriguing that of all the priests the late Aleister Crowley felt a connection with, Ankhef-n-Khonsu does record a mysterious, perhaps mystical experience.

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One thought on “The Khonsu’s of Karnak: a priestly family of ancient Thebes

  1. Looks like it is indian mythology coming out in soup form 🙂

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