Min was the god of fertility and was celebrated in one of the more interesting festivals during the Twentieth Dynasty. His cult centers were Koptos and Panopolis, and there is evidence of his worship as early as the First Dynasty, perhaps even earlier. Eventually he became a vegetation god, and one brief myth from the Eleventh Dynasty described his curious activity of bringing rain to the desert; apparently during the rainstorm he became visible to mortals. Both as vegetation god and as bringer of rain to barren land, he was fulfilling his duties as god of fertility.
|Min the Egyptian god|
Preliterate societies depended heavily on the health and strength of their kings. If a king were sickly or weak, he could not lead his people in battle and might not be able to produce an heir, thereby causing strife over his succession. As a result these societies devised numerous tests of the health and strength of their kings, most of which revolved around the periodic renewal of the king’s physical powers. On the plain across the river from Luxor is the Temple of Medinet Habu, the mortuary temple of Ramesses III, built during the Twentieth Dynasty. The walls of this temple contain carvings of the annual festival of Min at harvest time, during which the kings renewed their powers and were “reborn” with increased vigor. In the opening scene the king went to the “house of his father Min,” the local temple, accompanied by his sons, priests, musicians, and guards. There he worshipped the god and poured libations in his honor. Min in this episode was addressed as Amun-Ra-Khamutef, a combination of sun and moon gods.
In the next scene the god was carried out of his sanctuary by twenty priests, and a short procession, including the king, queen, a white bull, priests, and others, carried the statue on poles to a nearby festival site. Some of the priests carried a box of lettuce leaves, which were credited with aphrodisiac powers. (The explanation for this use of the lettuce plant remains obscure, although we have seen another example of it during the satirical version o the fight between Seth and Horus.) The group proceeded to the “Stairs of Min,” a platform with steps on which the statue was placed. The statue, according to the text, then caused the king to make great sacrifices. What happened next was supposed to rep resent the symbolic death and rebirth of the king/god, which in turn suggested the death and rebirth of the land whose virility wa5 thought to be connected with the king’s. The services began Wi the singing of hymns of praise; then the king cut a sheaf ofw with a sickle, symbolizing the death of the wheat at the moment 0f harvest. During this act, the queen, as the personification of Isis, walked around her husband and uttered a spell, probably intended to assure his rebirth. The next act was the sacrifice of the bull, which apparently served as surrogate for the king. The dead bull’s ear was severed and presented to the king as a reminder that he too was mortal, and the bull’s tail was cut off and shown to the assembled people. The king paraded around the stairs and eventually embraced the queen in the form of Isis while the people chanted hymns. The embrace was symbolic of the rebirth of the king as Min, and he was restored to purity, fertility, and vitality. Four birds were released to carry the good news to the four points of the compass, and the king offered the first fruits of the harvest to Min, whose statue was returned to his temple. It is possible that the rituals of the Sacred Marriage were celebrated between the king as Min and his wife as Isis or Hathor toward the end of the festival, but the sources of information are damaged at this point and the exact details are impossible to determine.
This festival celebrated Min as the god of fertility, which was his most prominent role, but Eva R. Meyerowitz, in a work on the rituals associated with the divine kingship in Egypt that includes an elaborate explanation of the festival just described, claims that Min was also given other duties. He was associated with the moon and considered a storm god illuminated by meteorites and thunderbolts. His statue was painted black to represent a stormy night.