The God Atemu

“The Closer”

By Alecto

The god Atemu is also known by the name, Tum. Atemu was the great god of Annu and the head of the company of gods from Annu. The priests of Annu succeeded in causing their local god, either separately or joined with Ra, to be accepted as the leader. He represented the evening or night sun. He is called in the XVth chapter of the Book of the Dead “divine god,” “self-created,” “maker of gods,” “creator of men,” “who stretched out the heavens,” “the lightener of the Tuat with his two eyes,” etc. The “cool breezes of the north wind” for which every dead man prayed, was supposed to have come from him.

Atemu is often depicted in the form of a man. He wears the double crown and is shown holding both the scepter and the ankh. On a sarcophagus at Turin, he is depicted in the boat of the Sun in the company of the god, Khepera. In between them are the beetle and the Sun Disk (Budge cx-cxi).

While searching for Atemu in my Guide to Egyptian Religion, I came up with a complete blank. I did, however, find Atum. After reading the entry, I came to the conclusion this may be yet another name for Atemu. Most Egyptian gods have at least two different names, if not more. However, I am not a hundred percent certain yet. I will present the information to you for you to decide.

The God Atum

“The Accomplished One”

“The One Who Did Not Come to Being Yet”

This name is derived from the verb, tem. The name has either a positive meaning, “the accomplished one,” or a negative one, “the one who did not come to being yet.” Atum is considered to be a self-made, primeval god of Heliopolitan cosmogony. He created the first couplet of gods, Shu and Tefnut, by masturbating. Memphite theology tells the story differently: the gods came from Atum’s mouth and humans from his eyes (corresponding to the titles of “maker of gods” and “creator of men” above). The Book of Dead presents Atum as a god that would survive and live on after the destruction of the world.

Atum’s most frequent titles are “Lord of Heliopolis (Annu?)” and “Lord of the Two Lands (Upper and Lower Egypt).” The second title stresses the king’s association with the god. The body of Atum is identified with that of the king’s in the Pyramid Texts. Egyptian artists present him as a man wearing the royal crown of Upper and Lower Egypt. The only detail to distinguish the god from that of the king is the shape of the beard.

Atum’s solar associations are with the sunset and the nightly journey of the sun. Moreover, he is representative of the “coronation cycle.” In some reliefs, mostly of Lower Egyptian Origin such as on the shrine of Rameses II from Pithom, Atum is the god crowning the king. Others have portrayed Atum as a representative of Lower Egypt and a counterpart of an Upper Egypt god leading the king toward the main deity. The importance of Atum in the new year feast confirming the king’s rule is described in the Brooklyn (yes, that’s not a typo) Papyrus.

Atum has many anthropomorphic, zoomorphic, and composite forms. He is shown most frequently as wearing the double crown, and other attributes, either alone or in combination, include the solar (sun) disk and a long tripartite wig. Various animals are associated with Atum and some function as hieroglyphics signs used in the notation of his name. The beetle, as one example, appears in the god’s name from the late New Kingdom until the Roman period (Redford, ed. 25-26).

The Associations

We have covered the mythological aspect of the name Atemu and its subsequent translation, Atum. What could Takahashi-san be trying to tell us by naming his character after a primeval creator god? Some of us would reckon that Osiris would be a better choice, emphasizing the rivalry between Kaiba/Set (named after the god Set) and Yami. Recent events in the manga, as well as the ending of the Memory World Arc, have given more insight as to why this name was possibly chosen over others.

Atemu/Atum is a god often depicted in the form of a man wearing the double crown. As pharaoh, Yami is an aspect of Atum, as he is of Osiris and Horus. Osiris, in contrast, is depicted as a mummy wrapped in bandages. Osiris would be a fitting representation of Yami after the death of his body, but not when he was alive and Pharaoh.

In chapter 336, when Pharaoh Atemu’s body fades away, he gives the Millennium Puzzle to Priest Set, who becomes king later. He is, in a sense, crowning Set as king. Thus, Yami fulfills the coronary role of the god Atum.

Even though his body faded away, Yami continues to exist. Atemu has basically survived the destruction of his kingdom/world, just as the Book of the Dead named Atum to be a god that would survive and live on after the destruction of the world. Zork, the Great God of Evil, had risen with the aid of the Dark Priest Akunadin and Thief Bakura. He had given all of himself to stop them but lives on as a spirit.

Most pharaohs are associated with the sun (Ra, Horus, Aten, etc). This solar association would not fit Yami, one who wields the power of Darkness. Atemu/Atum is representative of the midnight sun and the sunset. This reflects Yami’s powers and existence better.

Work Cited

Budge, E.A. Wallis. The Egyptian Book of the Dead (The Papyrus of Ani) : Egyptian Text Transliteration and Translation. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1967.

Redford, Donald B. The Ancient Gods Speak : A Guide to Egyptian Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2002.