Khonsu “God of Lunar” is the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon. His name means ‘traveller’, and this may relate to the perceived nightly travel of the Moon across the sky. Along with Thoth he marked the passage of time. Khonsu was instrumental in the creation of new life in all living creatures. At Thebes he formed part of a family triad (the “Theban Triad”) with Mut as his mother and Amun his father.
Mythology Khonsu’s name literally means ‘traveler’ and therefore reflects the fact that the Moon (referred to as Iah in Egyptian) travels across the night sky. He was also referred to by the titles Embracer, Pathfinder, Defender, and healer, and was thought to watch over those who travel at night. As the god of light in the night, Khonsu was invoked to protect against wild animals, and aid with healing. It was said that when Khonsu caused the crescent moon to shine, women conceived, cattle became fertile, and all nostrils and every throat was filled with fresh air.
Attributes In art, Khonsu is typically depicted as a mummy with the symbol of childhood, a sidelock of hair, as well as the menat necklace with crook and flail. He has close links to other divine children such as Horus and Shu. He was also portrayed with the head of a falcon and like Horus, with whom he is associated as a protector and healer, adorned with the moon disk and crescent moon. Khonsu is mentioned in the Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts, in which he is depicted in a fierce aspect, but he does not rise to prominence until the New Kingdom, when he is described as the “Greatest God of the Great Gods”. Most of the construction of the temple complex at Karnak was centered on Khonsu during the Ramesside period. The Temple of Khonsu at Karnak is in a relatively good state of preservation, and on one of the walls is depicted a creation myth in which Khonsu is described as the great snake who fertilizes the Cosmic Egg in the creation of the world.
In popular culture Khonsu appears as a character in Marvel Comics, where the spelling of his name was changed to ‘Khonshu’. In the comics, the character Moon Knight is the avatar of Khonshu and is also known as “The Fist of Khonshu”. Khonshu grants him supernatural abilities to fight evil in his name, but also slowly drives him insane. This is questionable as Khonshu’s nature in the Marvel universe changes depending on how the writer portrays him for the story. In the past run, Doug Moench portrays Khonshu as a neutral figure. In later runs he is retconned to be a more active and malicious, but ambiguous and may be just a mental construct of Marc. Khonshu’s character have been described differently to be a result of Marc’s condition, a hallucination, something closer to another alter of Marc, or a complete separate and malicious alien parasite.