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Shezmu in hieroglyphs
G17 G43 A40
M43 N37
G17 G43

Shesmu (alternatively Schesmu and Shezmu) is an Ancient Egyptian deity with an extremely contradicting character. He is worshipped since the early Old Kingdom period.[2]


Shesmu was seldomly depicted, if so, he appeared as a man with a lion's head, holding a butcher's knife. In later times he appeared as a lion. If only his name was mentioned, it often appeared with the determinative of an oil press, sometimes only the oilpress was depicted.[2][3]


Shesmu was a god with a pretty contradicting personality. At one side, he was lord of perfume, maker of all precious oil, lord of the oil press, lord of ointments and lord of wine. He was some kind of party- and celebration deity, likewise to the goddess Meret. Old Kingdom texts mention a special feast celebrated for Shesmu: young men would press grapes with their feet and then dance and sing for Shesmu.[2]

On the other hand, however, Shesmu was very vindictive and bloodthirsty. He was lord of blood, great slaughterer of the gods and he who dismembers bodies. In Old Kingdom pyramid texts several prayers ask Shesmu to dismember and actually cook certain deities in attempt to give the food to the deceased king. The deceased king needs the divine powers to survive the dangerous journey to the stars.[3][2][4]

However, it must remain open, if the word "blood" has to be taken verbatim, because the Ancient Egyptians symbolically offered red wine as "the blood of the gods" to several deities. This association was based simply on the dark red colour of the wine, a circumstance, that lead to connections of Shesmu with other deities who could appear in red colors. Examples include deities such as Ra, Horus and Kherty. The violent character of Shesmu made him become a protector amongst the companions of Ra's nocturnal bark. Shesmu protected Ra by threatening the demons and brawling at them. In the pyramid texts, he does similar things.[2]

It appears that starting with the New Kingdom, Shesmu's negative attributes were gradually overshadowed by the positive ones. Although on a 21st Dynasty papyri his wine press appears to be filled with human heads in place of grapes (a depiction which was common earlier, on Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts), on the 26th Dynasty sarcophagus of the Divine Adoratrice Ankhnesneferibre, Shesmu is recorded as a fine oil maker for the god Ra; later, during the Greco-Roman period, the manufacture of the finest oils and perfumes for the gods became Shesmu primary (and beneficial) role.[4]


Shesmu's main cult center was located at the Fayum. Later, there were further shrines erected at Edfu and Dendera.[2]


  1. ^ a b Friedrich Graf: Ägyptische Bildwerke: Band 2: Die ägyptische Jenseitsvorstellung und Götter im alten Ägypten. BoD, Norderstedt 2011, ISBN 384238081X, p. 346.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Pat Remler: Egyptian Mythology, A to Z. Chelsea House, New York 2010, ISBN 1438131801, p. 177-178.
  3. ^ a b Hans Bonnet: Reallexikon der ägyptischen Religionsgeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/New York 2000, ISBN 3110827905, p. 679.
  4. ^ a b George Hart: The Routledge Dictionary of Egyptian Gods and Goddesses. Routledge, London/New York 2005, ISBN 0-203-02362-5, pp. 146-147.