Mythological Spotlight #7 – Kuk

Kuk (right) and his wife Kauket (left), depicted in The Book of Doors

Kuk (right) and his wife Kauket (left), depicted in The Book of Doors

Description

Kuk is an ancient Egyptian deity of darkness, obscurity and the unknown. He is part of a very ancient pair of primordial deities known as the Ogdoad, alongside his wife and female counterpart Kauket. Together, they are embodiments of a state of darkness that existed before the time of creation. Kuk is also known to go by the names Kek or Keku.

 

History

The Ogdoad were a group of primordial deities worshipped in the city of Khmun (Hermopolis) in Egypt during the Old Kingdom period. They consisted of eight deities: Amun, Nun, Kuk and Huh and their respective wives Amunet, Naunet, Kauket and Hauhet. Each of them represented elements of the state of primordial chaos that preceded the creation of the world according to Egyptian mythology. Amun and Amunet represented air, invisibility and hidden things, Nun and Nunet represented the primordial waters and the abysss, Kek and Kauket represented the darkness and obscurity and Huh and Hauhet represented eternity and the infinite space. The male deities were symbolized by the frog and were depicted as frog-headed deities, while the female deities were symbolized by the snake and were depicted as snake headed deities. Of course that is how they are usually depicted. Sometimes they were depicted as geese or baboons.

The creation myth goes as follows: the universe was originally a dark, watery and directionless chaos, inhabited by snakes and frogs. The qualities of this primordial chaos were represented by the deities of the Ogdoad, and these deities were the rulers of this chaos who renewed the primordial waters. It was believed that they created a primordial mound upon which an egg was laid, which then hatched into – depending on what version of the myth – either the sun deity Ra, the creator deity Atum or a scarab beetle representing the Sun. In either case, light was brought to the universe and the cosmos was forged, which brought about order. It is said that afterwards the deities died and passed into the underworld, or Duat, where they supported the flow of the Nile river and the rise of the sun.

In Hermopolis, the cult of the Ogdoad was eventually displaced in prominence by the cult of Djehuti (Thoth), the more popular deity of magic, wisdom, knowledge and the moon. Incidentally, there is a version of the creation myth which supposes that the egg laid upon the primordial mound was laid by an ibis, the sacred bird of Djehuti.

You would think that this would be where the story ends. But no. In the modern age, it seems that the deity Kuk has been elevated by Internet culture.

In November 2015, someone on 4chan posted about Kuk and his mythological background. Four months later, someone on Reddit submitted a macro identifying Kuk as Kek (which probably actually refers to the slang word “kek”, but also happens to another name of Kuk) and associating him with Pepe the Frog, Donald Trump and the concept of “memetic magic”. Over time the meme grew and grew within 4chan, and eventually an online parody religion known as the Cult of Kek emerged. The Cult identifies Kek as, according to their Facebook page, the one true god of chaos, darkness, obscurity and “dubs”, believed to grant the wishes of those who end their posts in a series of repeating numbers. Kek is also identified with Pepe the Frog, the latter often considered by the Cult to be a modern avatar of Kek. Members of the cult talk on 4chan about how meme magic supposedly affects the real world, particularly the current American presidential election cycle. Kek is also associated with the number 7, due to its sacred significance in many cultures.

Because Trump’s supporters have embraced the Pepe meme, and because much of 4chan, particularly /pol/ have embraced Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the mainstream media have decided to demonize the Pepe meme by attaching him to white nationalism and white supremacism, drawing ridicule from much of the Internet. It also generated a response in the form of an article about Pepe and the Cult of Kek, apparently explaining the full story of the origins of Pepe and the Cult of Kek. Before that, Hillary Clinton had a speech in Reno where went on and on about the alt-right, according to her vapid old mind anyway, and from there Trump supporters from Milo Yiannopoulos to more recently Palmer Luckey, the CEO of Oculus VR, were slapped with very liberal usage of the term alt-right regardless of the actual substance of their views. This invariably brought the alt-right and Pepe more attention, leading of course to Pepe’s demonization by the media. Now Pepe seems to have gained certain political prominence among those who oppose Clinton and/or support Trump.

 

Conclusion

The Cult of Kek is, without a doubt, one of my favorite developments in modern culture. People on 4chan have taken an ancient deity, a relatively obscure deity of primordial chaos and darkness that was supplanted in prominence by other deities no less, and through an invented mythology elevated him into a prominent modern cultural icon through Pepe the Frog. This icon is aligned against polite society and mainstream culture, due to its association with 4chan and Trump. Kek is thus an icon of a modern counter-culture, and thus rebellion. In doing so, I dare say they have inducted Kek as the newest member of the infernal pantheon, and for that I can’t help but smile in glee.

All hail the dark lord Kek! Praise Kek!

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Drinking a veritable tankard of demonic knowledge!

I’ve been attending a series of lectures as part of a demonology conference called Demon Things at Swansea University during the last few days. This conference was specifically about Egyptian demonology, that is to say the study of demons and liminal beings found in ancient Egyptian myth and lore, and there were many speakers who showed up to present papers on various subjects pertaining to this theme (subjects such as the role of demons, liminal deities, donkey-headed deities, the nature of “evil”, the status of the deity Anubis, protective deities/demons at specific archaeological sites, and much more). Due to regular lectures happening at my university (the last before the university closes on Good Friday and we break up for the spring holidays), I unfortunately could not attend the last few lectures this morning, but the lectures I did attend had a lot of information. I’m not sure if I managed to absorb or contain it all, but I learned some interesting things about demons from the Egyptian view, and about demons in general, that will probably inspire a lot, and I think may have inspired plenty of things already.

Demons in ancient Egypt weren’t necessarily like the concept of “demon” that most are familiar with. For most people, demons are hostile and inherently malevolent beings. And demons often could be hostile beings in ancient Egypt, and some may have been malevolent, but in Egypt a lot of them actually served a protective role. In ancient texts demons were held to guard the afterlife against the souls who were not meant to pass through – if you did not have a certain password (for lack of a better word) that the soul would utter at certain points in the journey to the realm of the afterlife, then you would not be allowed to pass through, leading to the total annihilation of the soul. They were often considered liminal beings, due to the fact that they guarded the threshold in the netherworld through the afterlife. For the layfolk in Egypt, they were defenders and played a vital role in their culture. This basically means that they have a generally ambivalent role in Egyptian myth – they were a potential threat to the deceased (or rather, the unjustified dead), but they can be protectors of the living, and in general they already are charged with protecting the underworld from the negative forces. Their role may have been very morally relative – if you knew how to propitiate them in the trials leading to the realm of the afterlife, or if they were invoked as protection, then they could be seen as good, but if you were crossing the netherworld and were unprepared. Often, demons were under the control of deities such as a Ra, Sekhmet, Anubis, and others. Some deities may have been identified as demonic, or demons as deities, like Bes, Tawaret, Tutu, and a deity named Meneh – the last two are identified as master or lord of demons respectively.

Egypt also seems to be, to my knowledge, the only culture where entities are depicted with weapons on their feet!

The logo of the Demon Things conference, depicting an example of one of the demons found in Egyptian depictions.

Egypt also seems to be, to my knowledge, the only culture where entities are depicted with weapons from their feet!

I realized that the Egyptian notion of demons was largely as ambivalent aggressive/protective beings, and it reminded me this role was actually fairly common in many world cultures before the rise of monotheism. You have in Mesopotamia demons like Pazuzu, who was so powerful that every other demon feared him and so was invoked as protection from other demons. In Tibet, wrathful and/or demonic beings fight and repel negative or evil influence in order to protect the practitioner as well as remove obstacles of spiritual practice and enlightenment. It is similarly true in esoteric forms of Japanese Buddhism. In Bali, the demon queen Rangda is simultaneously seen as an evil and protective force. In Greece, images of chthonic beings like the Gorgons adorn temples in order to ward off evil.

The nature of “evil” was also discussed in one lecture, and within that lecture we got round to discussing the notion of the 42 “judges” that appear in the Book of the Dead, and how they guard the netherworld by feeding off of “evil”; or at least one of them does – a judge named Dwdw=f, who I think may or may not have been a manifestation of Apep.

I was also enticed by a symbol from the Egyptian texts called the Black Ram – an image of something referred to as the “Lord of Power”. It seemed to represent a liminal power, or a hostile power of the netherworld. The ram character may have been connected with a solar being, the liminal state, danger, darkness, hiddenness, injury, and death. There was mention in the same lecture of a Black Sun that appears in the Tomb of Irunefer that devours evil. The ram’s role may have been morally relative just like the other demonic figures, depending on your position in the Egyptian underworld. I have found in that Black Ram a new personal symbol, one that to me at least appears to combine the powers of the sun (and fertility) associated with the ram, with the powers of darkness and the netherworld – it seems to me like a black ram would make for a powerful demonic totem, as the ram symbol gains more personal prominence.

The Black Ram

The Egyptian interpretation of the demons is one that I would definitely mix in with the other interpretations of the demons, even with the modern idea of the demon. When I run this in my head, I envision passionate, mysterious, “dark” spirits, embodying the nether of the human being, and mostly ambivalent, whose aggressive/protective nature in the past makes them seem like rajasic (as in one of the three gunas) and I seem to like that. That a lot of them have animal aspects reminds me that they are animalistic beings – remembering what Anton LaVey commented about the deities that represented the animal in Man, and Michael W. Ford’s talk of demonic deific masks typically being bestial or animal. And who knows, over the centuries the demons may have gone through transitions . When they once served the deities in the heavens, in the modern age those deities are no longer in control, or the heavens have rejected the demons. And now they’re rebellious, chaotic spirits, making their own rules in the absence of divine masters. That may be just the fire of inspiration those lectures set off in me, one that I think makes me appreciate the demons ever more, and because of the way I think of demons I feel more excited about the kind of “animalistic” spiritual path that I prefer to follow – in conjunction with my prior reading of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible.

In my opinion, the lectures were a smash hit and you simply had to be there. But if you missed them, it’s possible that the Ancient Egyptian Demonology Project may publish proceedings from the Demon Things conference in due course.

Me and Ancient Egypt

After publishing my post about Chaos and Law a few weeks ago, I began thinking I was beginning to relate more to Egyptian ideas, and reflection on my interaction with them.

In May and June of last year, I was working on a major project for my art course in college. It was a gallery space, and was basically a small room containing 9 panting prints, a circular collage, an altar which featured 10 customised paper discs, and lots of writing and pictures on the wall. As I look back on it lately, I begin to remind myself of an ancient Egyptian temple or burial chamber, because there was a lot of writing and drawings in addition to the artwork on display. To add to that, there was a serpent  with a solar crest in the space stretching from the beginning to the end. To be fair though, I probably sensed a connection back when the space was created, but it seems more noticeable in my mind when I look back on it this month for some reason.

Maybe it’s Amun-Ra talking. He is the ram after all.

Some time ago I watched a documentary on the afterlife of Ancient Egyptian belief, particularly the journey undertaken by the pharaoh Seti I. The journey places Seti as re-enacting the mythic journey of the sun god Ra, in the shoes of the god like they had become one, and he sails across the waters bypassing obstacles and defeating the Apep, the symbol of annihilation, and reaching paradise. The more I reflect on that the more it just makes sense to me, the more it reminds of spiritual goals that I pursue, though clearly not in the same sense.

I’m not talking of a full-on conversion to the Egyptian pantheon here. I just feel like giving credit where it’s do. Besides, part of me is beginning to not see point in being puristic about gods from mythology being in a certain place.