Min is an ancient Egyptian deity of fertility. As far back as the Badarian Period (5000–3400 BC) along the Nile River, there are stone and terra cotta figures of naked women and men representing fertility. During that period, it appears that agriculture and human procreation were inseparable in the concept of fertility.
The deity known by the name of Min was a principal fertility spirit. Min's representation was of a man with a large phallus. Whereas Hapi and Ausar were also considered to be fertility deities who ruled over all the farms and meadows, Min was different in that he represented male fertility and was therefore looked on as one who could grant to the per-aa (pharaoh) or ordinary men the power to father children.
Fertility was at the heart of the Sed Festival (the Jubilee), where the per-aa had to demonstrate his vigor and vitality by running around a course set out by the priests, with different types of objects in his hands, on his back, or on his head to be symbolically rejuvenated. “Long live the per-aa” was first spoken in Kernet by those who sought the blessings of the god of fertility, Min, who presided over the event. There are representations of the per-aa watering the fields, hoeing the Earth, and tending the crops while the patron god of fertility looked on. Scenes representing Min in his role as the deity of fertility in charge of the Min festival can be seen on the walls of tombs. A special fertility festival called the Min Festival was held each year, where the per-aa participated as the one who reaped the grain. Usually when an heir was born, the Egyptians would have a festival dedicated to the deity Min.
Min was originally an agricultural deity, as can be seen in the paintings on the walls of Medinet Habu, where Ramses III is presented as one cutting a sheaf of wheat for the Festival of Min. The association of fertility with agriculture and with reproduction, however, is quite old. In fact, a virgin was sometimes spoken of as one whose field had been unplowed. It should also be noted that Min was painted black in his representations as the deity of fertility.
Min was usually represented in the Egyptian writing as a barbed arrow or thunderbolt. A palette from the Gerzean era called the Min Palette shows an image of a double-ended arrow on a hook. An ivory statuette of a human being with an erect penis was another early example of the deity from the El Amrah area of Egypt. Actually, there are many representatives of Min as a mummiform man standing with both legs together and an arm raised holding a flail and wearing the twin plumes of Amen. The Scorpion King, the predynastic ruler, may have worshipped the deity Min at the cult center at Gebtu (Koptos). Later one discovers Min being associated with the cult center at Akhmim (Panopolis).
During the New Kingdom Era from the 14th to the 21st dynasties, Min was portrayed as the Bull of the Great Phallus. Thus, Min as the deity of fertility and sexuality extended throughout most of the dynastic history of Egypt.
- Erman, A. (1971). Life in Ancient Egypt. New York: Dover.
- Grimal, N. (1992). A History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.