(Menu; in older literature sometimes – incorrectly – Amsu) Min is depicted as a man with a large erect penis which he holds with his left hand while his right arm is raised, with a flail poised over it. While it might be expected that his raised arm is brandishing the flail, in fact the flail (in Egyptian nekhakha) is never shown gripped in his hand. It has been suggested, therefore, that the flail represents a power emanating from Min’s upraised hand itself, a common epithet of Min’s being ‘who raises his arm’. While earlier generations of scholars inferred from Min’s erect penis that his principal function was fertility, it has recently been argued that Min’s upraised arm and erect penis are, in fact, both manifestations of his protective function, a form of display known as “phallic intimidation” (Ogdon 1985). The same flail is also seen poised over images of the recumbent Anubis or recumbent bovine-form deities, as well as occurring in the hieroglyphic determinative for ‘nobility’, which shows a seated or kneeling man grasping the flail. Min wears a crown with tall plumes atop it and streamers hanging from its back, and is dressed in the wrappings of a mummy. The plumes on Min’s crown also appear to be paradigmatic, for we read in CT spell 335, “I am Min in his goings out, I have set the two plumes on my head,” and again in 371, “my plumes are on my head like Min of Coptos.” The latter spell is for “eating bread” in the netherworld, and thus the plumes could represent the stems of wheat or barley plants, pointing to an association of Min with agricultural fertility. In a passage from the Pyramid Texts (PT utterance 667A), however, the plumes seem to be represent the power of flight: the deceased king is urged to “raise yourself as Min; fly up to the sky and live with them [the Gods], cause your wings to grow with the feathers on your head and your feathers on your arms.”
One of Min’s most important associations is with the eastern desert, where Egyptians went to quarry stones of every kind under Min’s protection, in particular from the often-hostile tribes of the region. This association with the eastern desert means that Min is frequently invoked as representing the direction of the east in general and the eastern horizon. The sunrise therefore probably contributes to the symbolism of Min’s erection and of his raised arm as well. In PT utterance 673 it is said that “you [the deceased] give orders to the sun-folk as Min who is in his house,” while the general sense of rising is conveyed by BD spell 170, “for raising the bier,” which states “O Osiris N., Min of Coptos lifts thee, and the Gods of the shrine adore thee.” Min is frequently depicted housed in his own shrine, perhaps alluding to his role as guardian of the gates and doors of temples. It has been suggested that an enigmatic symbol associated with Min from the earliest period of Egyptian history represents a door-bolt, and indeed in PT utterance 313 the door-bolt of the doors of the sky is imagined as the phallus of Babi, a similarly ithyphallic deity (Wilkinson 1991). Min is also known as “protector of the moon” during its vulnerable dark phase (La Lune, 46-48).
Min is frequently identified with Horus, either as Horus-Min or Min-Horus, or by simple substitution. Hence the ancient commentary on the passage from CT spell 335, quoted above, identifies “Min in his goings out” as “Horus, Protector of his father,” and “his two plumes” as “his [Horus’] two great plumes” – variant manuscripts read “his great uraeus” or “uraei” (fire-spitting cobras) – “which were on the head of his father [i.e., Horus’ ancestor] Atum.” The identification of Min and Horus means that Min is frequently characterized as the son of Isis. In one magical spell (no. 95 in Borghouts), however, Min is said to be “the son of the White Sow who is in Heliopolis,” which may refer to Isis or to an archaic Goddess originally associated with Min whose identity eludes us. Min is particularly identified with Horus in an episode from the Conflict of Horus and Seth, in which Seth, after attempting to prove his superiority over Horus to the divine tribunal by implicating Horus in a homosexual encounter in which Seth was the dominant partner, is instead tricked into consuming the semen of Horus himself. When called forth by Thoth, the semen shows its presence by a solar disk appearing over Seth’s head. Thus an offering scene at Edfu urges Min to “cause your seed to enter the body of the enemy, that he may be pregnant, and that your son may come out from his forehead,” (Ogdon, 33f). The characteristic offering to Min is lettuce, the milky juice of which Egyptians compared to semen. Hence, in the scene from Edfu cited above, the pharaoh is depicted offering lettuce to Min and says to him, “Take for yourself the beautiful green plants which are with me, that you may cast the sacred fluid which is in it.”
It is interesting to note that although one might expect Min to be an essentially masculine deity, CT spell 967, which comes from a woman’s sarcophagus, affirms that “My phallus is that of Min.”
Ogdon, Jorge. 1985. “Some Notes on the Iconography of the God Min.” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 7.
Wilkinson, Richard. 1991. “Ancient Near Eastern Raised-arm Figures and the Iconography of Min.” Bulletin of the Egyptological Seminar 11.