literally, “bull of his mother,” is not exactly the name of a deity, but rather is a functional epithet associated with the name of a deity—usually Amun-Re, or less frequently the combination Min-Amun-Re, or even Min alone. It makes Amun his own father Amun-Re-Kamutef. Kamutef is represented under the appearance of Min, a figure bound up (like a mummy), having an erect penis. Amun-Re-Kamutef is attested at Karnak during the time of Senwosret I, and its ithyphallic depiction dates to the eleventh dynasty. At Coptos during the Middle Kingdom, Min-Kamutef was considered as the son of Isis. The Osirian terminology was thereby introduced into the Coptite theology, and Min-the-son was able to assume the functional name of Horus, and even of Horus-Isis. Kamutef appears in the Hermetic texts under the Greek name “Kamephis.”
To impregnate one's own mother was considered incest, a practice attested in the Pyramid Texts. Such an act allowed Geb, who raped his mother Tefnut, to appropriate the royalty of Shu, who was Tefnut's brother and husband and Kamutef's father. Yet to be “Kamutef” is also a way of denying linear time and inverting the succession of generations by uniting the past and the present in one personnage. This personnage, being both father and son of itself, possesses a legitimacy that is not questionable. Helmuth Jacobssohn (1939, 1955) sees in Kamutef a concept employed by the Egyptians to express the continuity of the regeneration of the gods and of the royal dynasties.
Probably, the historical circumstances of the appearance of Amun-Re-Kamutef clarify the significance of this theological construction. Around 2000 BCE, Montuhotep I reestablished the pharaonic power over the entire country. Parallel to his military and political actions, he established his power by means of a new theology whose central figure was Amun, the Theban god who appeared during the reign of his father Antef II. The unifier Montuhotep I is depicted on certain reliefs as adding the feathers of Amun to his crown of Upper Egypt. Amun is not a vague and weak local god; in his first attestations he is a divine and solar king, and an immanent entity, hidden in all things. He presents himself under two forms, a normal and an ithyphallic one, the latter being an appearance borrowed from his companion Min. During the reign of Senwosret I, even the nonithyphallic form of Amun could be described as “Kamutef.” The two forms were equally important. Later, they alternated systematically on the walls of the Theban temples.
In the new theocracy, Amun-Re-Kamutef was an expression of the idea of legitimate descent without ancestry, and it kept the royal function safe from dynastic contestation. Although a divinity without ancestors, Amun-Re-Kamutef was not really one of the primordial deities, those solitary and unique gods present at the beginning of the world. Amun-Re-Kamutef is practically absent from the great funerary texts and cosmogonic stories.
The processional image of Min-Amun-Re-Kamutef, a ceremonial object used in the festival of Min, was conserved at Karnak. Following Herbert Ricke (1954), it is customary to attribute to Amun-Re-Kamutef the building constructed by Thutmose III in front of Temple of Mut at Karnak, but this interpretation can be questioned. We know of several priestly titles relating to the cult of the Kamutef-forms of Amun or of Min, but there was no clergy specifically dedicated to this divine aspect.
- Assmann, Jan. “Muttergattin.” In Lexikon der Ägyptologie, 4: 264–266. Wiesbaden, 1980. With a summary of Jacobssohn's theses.
- Bonnet, Hans. Reallexikon der Ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte. Berlin, 1952.
- Jacobssohn, Helmuth. Die dogmatische Stellung des Königs in der Theologie der alten Ägypter. Ägyptologische Forschungen, 8. Glückstadt, Hamburg, and New York, 1939, 1955. See in particular pages 18 ff. The same author summarized his theses in 1978 in Lexikon der Ägyptologie, 3: 308–309.
- Lacau, Pierre, and Henri Chevrier. Une chapelle de Sésostris Ier à Karnak. Cairo, 1956.
- Quirke, Stephen. Ancient Egyptian Religion. London, 1992.
- Ricke, Herbert. Das Kamutef-heiligtum in Karnak. Beiträge zur ägyptischen Bayforschung und Altertumskunde, 3. Cairo, 1954. Publication of the excavations of the temple of the Mut precinct, with an attempt at an interpretation and presentation of the information about Mut.
Claude Traunecker; translated from French by Susan Romanosky