An aspect of Heh, holding a pair of notched palm branches
An aspect of Heh, holding a pair of notched palm branches
Name in hieroglyphs
Major cult centerHermopolis (as a member of the Ogdoad)
Symbolpalm branch
ConsortHauhet (female aspect of Heh)

Ḥeḥ (ḥḥ, also Huh, Hah, Hauh, Huah, and Hehu[citation needed]) was the personification of infinity or eternity in the Ogdoad in ancient Egyptian religion.[1] His name originally meant "flood", referring to the watery chaos Nu that the Egyptians believed existed before the creation of the world.[2] The Egyptians envisioned this chaos as infinite, in contrast with the finite created world, so Heh personified this aspect of the primordial waters.[3] Heh's female counterpart and consort was known as Hauhet, which is simply the feminine form of his name.[1]

Like the other concepts in the Ogdoad, his male form was often depicted as a frog, or a frog-headed human, and his female form as a snake or snake-headed human. The frog head symbolised fertility, creation, and regeneration, and was also possessed by the other Ogdoad males Kek, Amun, and Nun.[4] The other common representation depicts him crouching, holding a palm stem in each hand (or just one),[5] sometimes with a palm stem in his hair, as palm stems represented long life to the Egyptians, the years being represented by notches on it. Depictions of this form also had a shen ring at the base of each palm stem, which represented infinity. Depictions of Heh were also used in hieroglyphs to represent one million, which was essentially considered equivalent to infinity in Ancient Egyptian mathematics. Thus this deity is also known as the "god of millions of years".

Origins and mythology

The primary meaning of the Egyptian word ḥeḥ was "million" or "millions"; a personification of this concept, Ḥeḥ, was adopted as the Egyptian god of infinity. With his female counterpart Ḥauḥet (or Ḥeḥut), Ḥeḥ represented one of the four god-goddess pairs comprising the Ogdoad, a pantheon of eight primeval deities whose worship was centred at Hermopolis Magna. The mythology of the Ogdoad describes its eight members, Heh and Hauhet, Nu and Naunet, Amun and Amaunet, and Kuk and Kauket, coming together in the cataclysmic event that gives rise to the sun (and its deific personification, Atum).[6]

Heh sometimes helps Shu, a god associated with air, in supporting the sky goddess Nut.[7] In the Book of the Heavenly Cow, eight Heh gods are depicted together with Shu supporting Nut, who has taken the form of a cow.[8]

Forms and iconography

A relief depicting Heh holding two palm ribs from the Temple of Ramesses II, Abydos

The god Ḥeḥ was usually depicted anthropomorphically, as in the hieroglyphic character, as a male figure with divine beard and lappet wig. Normally kneeling (one knee raised), sometimes in a basket—the sign for "all", the god typically holds in each hand a notched palm branch (palm rib). (These were employed in the temples for ceremonial time-keeping, which use explains the use of the palm branch as the hieroglyphic symbol for rnp.t, "year").[9] Occasionally, an additional palm branch is worn on the god's head.

In Ancient Egyptian Numerology, Gods such as Heh were used to represent numbers in a decimal point system. Particularly, the number 1,000,000 is depicted in the hieroglyph of Heh, who is in his normal seated position.[10]

Cult and worship

The personified, somewhat abstract god of eternity Ḥeḥ possessed no known cult centre or sanctuary; rather, his veneration revolved around symbolism and personal belief. The god's image and its iconographic elements reflected the wish for millions of years of life or rule; as such, the figure of Ḥeḥ finds frequent representation in amulets, prestige items and royal iconography from the late Old Kingdom period onwards. Heh became associated with the King and his quest for longevity. For instance, he appears on the tomb of King Tutankhamen, in two cartouches, where he is crowned with a winged scarab beetle, symbolizing existence and a sun disk. The placement of Heh in relation to King Tutankhamen's corpse means he will be granting him these "millions of years" into the afterlife.[11]


See also



  1. ^ a b Wilkinson, Richard H. (2003). The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson. p. 109
  2. ^ Allen, James P. Genesis in Egypt: The Philosophy of Ancient Egyptian Creation Accounts. Yale Egyptological Seminar, 1988
  3. ^ Allen, James P. Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University Press, 2000
  4. ^ Rush, John (2007). The Twelve Gates: A Spiritual Passage Through the Egyptian Books of the Dead. Berkeley, CA: Frog. p. 281.
  5. ^ Owusu, Heike (2008). Egyptian Symbols. New York, NY: Sterling. p. 73.
  6. ^ Hart, George (1990). Egyptian Myths. London: British Museum Publications. p. 21.
  7. ^ Pinch, Geraldine (2002). Handbook of Egyptian Mythology. p. 139.
  8. ^ Pinch, Geraldine (2004). A Guide to the Gods, Goddesses, and Traditions of Ancient Egypt. Oxford University Press. pp. 75, 77. ISBN 0-19-517024-5.
  9. ^ Remler, Pat (2010). Egyptian Mythology, A to Z. New York: Chelsea House.
  10. ^ Imhausen, Annette (2016). Mathematics of Ancient Egypt. Princeton: Princeton University. p. 19.
  11. ^ Remler, Pat (2010). Egyptian Mythology, A to Z. New York: Chelsea House.