One of my favorite reasons to travel is because some myths you won’t find anywhere else in the world but from the mouths of the people themselves. One of my favorite myths I collected on a trip through Egypt in 2016. Egyptian mythology had always puzzled me because in the few stories and fragments available there was always references to sexuality and an openness especially to the phallic, but that never seemed to translate into the art, until I found a picture of the God Min adorned on one of the walls inside the temple of Ramesses II in Abel Simbel.
I was immediately puzzled; who was this one armed, one-legged overtly memorable god with a gigantic phallus (that seemed to have been omitted from all my text books and coursework on Egyptian Mythology)? Luckily, I had a wonderful guide, an Egyptian guy who was working towards his Masters in Egyptology, who told me the legend of Amun Min:
Once there was a king, and he and all his men were called out to fight a war. All of them left their wives at home, with only a single man to guard them, Min. When the king and his men returned months later they were surprised to find all their wives with child. The king called for Min and demanded to know how all the women became pregnant, and Min just shrugged his shoulders and said he didn’t know, so the king cut off his arm as punishment. The following year the men were once again called out to war, and Min was once again left to guard all the women. When the men returned, they were furious to find all the women pregnant again. The king called for Min and demanded he tell him what happened. Again, Min just shrugged and said he didn’t know, so the king had Min’s leg removed. The third year, war broke out once again and Min was left behind with all the women. When the King returned to find that yet again all the women were pregnant he had Min hauled in front of him to explain, and again Min just shrugged and said he didn’t know. The King told his men to seize Min and to remove his penis as punishment, but as the guards tore his clothes from his body and saw how huge Min’s phallus was, they decided to make him a god instead and that’s how he became Amun Min.
When I got back home I started looking up Min to see if I could find an account of this story recorded anywhere, which so far, I have not. While there are multiple references to Min as the god of fertility, and acknowledgment of his importance in early Egyptian life, his descriptions are brief at best. Digging further, I began to realize that where there are photographs, they are often from the waist up, or otherwise doctored to hide his offending member.
This censoring and desire to suppress any mention of his most noticeable attribute demonstrates how easily skewed our recording of the history of other cultures can become. The European scholars of the Victorian age who flocked to Egypt and dug up and excavated anything they could find are often the authors of the seminal texts we use today, and their conservative sensibilities shaped much of the information that was recorded or excluded. Min was all but wiped from the Egyptian pantheon by early European scholars, an effect which cascades as these books are then being used as references for generations to come. I often wonder about the Amun Min story; is it actual mythology that was around in Ancient pre-dynastic Egypt? Or is it a folkloric legend that has sprung up to fill the void left by the censoring of his story?